Published on October 17, 2019

Owensboro Health installs brand-new open MRI

By Renee Beasley Jones, Messenger-Inquirer

Owensboro Health is installing a new open-sided MRI that cuts in half the time patients spend on the table and can accept those who weigh up to 660 pounds.

The nearly $1.3 million Hitachi Oasis at OH Outpatient Imaging -- The Springs is the only open-sided MRI in a 70-mile radius, said Dr. Carl Watkins, diagnostic radiologist. That cost does not include construction expenses to retrofit the clinical space, such as a new concrete pad and shielding in the floor, ceiling and walls to limit magnetic interference.

Easy access, quicker, quieter and beneficial for those who suffer from claustrophobia

Watkins said the new machine should be a godsend for patients who need procedures but won't schedule them because they suffer from claustrophobia, or a fear of small spaces. Studies show that up to 15% of patients fear MRIs for that reason and body size.

A conventional MRI machine is an enclosed tubelike system with an opening about 2 feet wide.

With an open-sided unit, "you can see from all around," said Karen Dennis, OH director of outpatient imaging. "And it is quieter."

The new unit comes with a 32-inch-wide table that lowers for easy access.

An open-sided MRI allows a parent to stand beside a child and hold his hand while images are taken.

"Sometimes, that's all it takes to have a child hold still while we get the study," Watkins said.

In the past, the procedure lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. Once the new model is installed, the time on the table will be slashed to 30 to 40 minutes.

Cutting the time will prove advantageous for children, who struggle to hold still for long periods of time, and for people who suffer from pain due to their medical conditions, Watkins said.

Images from older open-sided units lacked sufficient "field strength," or power, to produce the highest quality images.

"... Oasis is the highest field strength, whole body vertical field magnet," Hitachi reports.

The new unit should produce images on par with enclosed MRI systems, Watkins said, but some doctors may still prefer images from a traditional, enclosed machine.

The new unit contains a 32,000-pound magnet. On Friday, two cranes will be placed in The Springs employee parking lot in preparation of moving the magnet on Saturday, when crews will maneuver it through a window on the imaging center's northeast side.

Ready for patients in November

Dennis hopes the new unit will be ready for patients in late November. On Wednesday, she said patients already have scheduled appointments in anticipation.

Although the new machine is quieter, music will be available, along with pads for comfort and washcloths to cover eyes.

The Hitachi Oasis is replacing OH's old open-sided MRI system, which was in service about 19 years.

The Springs has OH's only open-sided MRI.

"It's a great addition to the fleet of (MRI systems) we already have," Dennis said.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 200 providers at more than 20 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a surgical weight loss center and program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have 16,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 24,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 200 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 70,000 Emergency Department visits, more than a million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.