MRI scanner adds speed, comfort

By Greg Gelpi

Showing its commitment to lead the Southern Crescent in medical technology and customer service, the Southern Regional Health System added a new magnetic resonance imaging scanner.

"I'm in hog heaven," Gladys Woods, the MRI manager at Southern Regional, said. "Now we can do all the hi-tech stuff they do on the north side of town."

The shorter magnets and a smaller structure replace the former tunnel that created panic attacks and feelings of claustrophobia in patients, Woods said.

"Your whole body is not enclosed at any one time," she said. "We have a lot of people who can't go into tunnels. They consider it like a casket."

The MRI scanner provides more in-depth X-rays of the human body, showing changes in tissue and body fluids, such as cancer and blood.

"It was almost like going from the 19th century to the 21st century," Woods said. "We can tell what actually caused a stroke n aneurysm or leakage. And we can determine how much, if any, brain tissue is damaged. All of this helps us provide our patients the best care possible."

Along with more detailed X-rays, the new equipment speeds up the process with magnets that are 30 percent to 40 percent faster than previous MRI machinery, she said. With the faster equipment, the Southern Regional's Radiology Department can see 18 to 20 patients a day, rather than the 13 to 15 patients it had been seeing.

"From the very start, the magnets' designers had the patients' comfort in mind," Danny Whitt, director of diagnostic imaging, said. "The magnets' advanced applications not only benefit us but they greatly benefit our patients."

More than seven times stronger than the hospital's previous equipment, the new MRI scanner has the strong magnets of traditional MRI and the comfortable environment of what is known as an "open" MRI, Whitt said.

"It essentially jumps us ahead 15 years," he said.

About 2 percent of its patients suffer from claustrophobia or some fear of enclosed spaces, Whitt said.

The new technology allows hospital staff to perform more non-evasive procedures, as opposed to full-blown surgery, he said.

The new MRI machine will be in operation by the end of July and will be used along with another new MRI machine the hospital installed earlier this year.

According to Southern Regional, the hospital is the only one in the Southern Crescent with two MRI scanners. The hospital provides MRI services around the clock daily.