New medical-imaging gear reduces ‘freak-out’ factor

Riverdale office rolls out state-of-art MRI system

Photo by Jim Massara
Technologist Rebecca Reyes of Jonesboro and OMI president Tom Brown flank OMI’s new Siemens MRI system.

Photo by Jim Massara Technologist Rebecca Reyes of Jonesboro and OMI president Tom Brown flank OMI’s new Siemens MRI system.

RIVERDALE — As a college student years ago, Tom Brown had to have an MRI scan. Technicians laid him on his back, shoved him into a tight metal tube and expected him to stay perfectly motionless while a noisy machine took snapshots of his insides for some doctor’s amusement.

Problem was, Brown’s nose started to itch — and he couldn’t scratch it.

“I just freaked out,” Brown said. “I couldn’t move.”

OMI Diagnostics’ new MRI system will be the first of its kind in Clayton County to reduce that freak-out factor by being roomier and less closed-in, making it more accessible to obese and claustrophobic patients. And no one could be more pleased about it than Brown, now president of OMI.

The equipment, manufactured by Siemens Medical Solutions, fills a room and cost about $1.25 million. Technicians are tweaking it to go online later this month at OMI’s office near Southern Regional Medical Center.

“It’s big enough that if I’m in the tube I can move my hand and touch my nose,” said Brown. “I can turn on my side if I want to. You don’t feel like you’re in a coffin.”

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, a process by which powerful magnets are used to “see” into a person’s body. Although they’re considered to be safer than X-rays, the machines used to produce the images are constrictive and not fat-friendly. What’s worse, MRI equipment can be fussy. If the subject moves — as someone who starts to panic in such a constricted space might — the image is ruined and has to be re-taken. Brown said the new Siemens set-up will produce better images and increase efficiency by making it easier to do the job right the first time.

What makes the system less intimidating is its larger opening and shorter length. Brett Wilson, a Siemens account executive, said that combining that size with the unit’s level of sensitivity is unique to his company’s product.

And the feeling of actually lying in it?

“It’s the difference between going into a tunnel and going into a doughnut hole,” Wilson said.

Brown said that while MRI equipment like OMI’s is part of a trend — he knew of similar equipment by another manufacturer in Stockbridge — this was the only Siemens unit and the first of its kind in Clayton.

Atlanta-based OMI has six offices in the metro area. Its Riverdale office opened in 2005.