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Multi-purpose, flexible coils enhance image quality of existing MRI machines

Del Williams

Del Williams, Guest Editor

With higher deductibles and more price-conscious healthcare consumers, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, improving the performance, comfort and speed of MRI scans can be an important strategy for imaging centers that must compete by offering the best patient care and experience.

However, investing in the latest MRI model from GE or Siemens is often not an option for hospitals or clinics that have purchased a machine within the past eight years. Although completely adequate for the majority of scans that are routinely performed each day, newer 3T models now deliver higher resolution and faster scanning for improved diagnosis. They also cost well over a million dollars.

Fortunately, the MRI machine is not the only factor that affects image quality and speed. In many cases, upgrading the coils required to perform a scan and increasing the number of channels can deliver comparable improvements in signal-to-noise ratio for better image resolution. 

Furthermore, a new breed of multi-purpose coil that is not limited to a specific anatomical region is providing imaging centers with more flexibility, greater patient comfort, the ability to accommodate larger or smaller sized parts of the body, and a host of other benefits. 

Third-party coil providers

For many years, rigid, anatomy-specific coils have dominated the market. Specialized clinics focusing predominantly on one area of the body might require several coils, but most imaging centers need as many as 5-7 different coils on hand. 

When one of these coils needs to be replaced, it means purchasing a similar anatomical model, usually from the MRI manufacturer. A single multi-purpose coil, on the other hand, can replace multiple anatomy-specific coils. 

Although the major MRI manufacturers now offer multi-purpose options, these are only compatible with the latest MRI scanners and not older models. Fortunately, new 8 channel multi-purpose coils, ideal for upgrading older systems using 1, 4 and 8-channel rigid coils, are now available for clinical use from select third-party providers.

While some medical equipment manufacturers have sought to bring multi-purpose coils to the market, the challenge has been to satisfy a rigorous, qualification process. For third-party MRI coils to be used for clinical applications, they must be CE marked, FDA approved, as well as approved by the MRI manufacturer for sale with a clinical coil I.D. 

The first third-party supplier to meet these criteria for 1.5T GE scanners is MR Instruments. The company’s DuoFLEX Coil Suite of 8-channel coils – available in two sizes and an interventional option – utilizes a flexible design to deliver improved image quality. A Siemens 1.5T option, as well as 3T multi-purpose coils for both the major manufacturers, are currently in development and slated for release in 2015.

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