Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) typically provides valuable insights into a large range of diseases that can be observed in patients. Because of this, many facilities may want to acquire an MRI system. Facilities in more developed areas of the world may be more likely to be able to buy and house such systems. Health care facilities in developing countries and areas of the world may not have the space or the power needed to maintain an MR suite.
The forms of MR suites
Currently, MRI suites contain a number of technological components, such as the chiller, radiofrequency (RF) cage, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and steel shielding. These components may be contained in multiple different rooms including the technical. equipment, examination and control rooms. The technical and equipment room contain the more technical aspects and the equipment that is not being used for the scan. The examination room contains the MR system and, during scanning, the patient. The control room contains the technologist(s) and the computer that the data from the MR system is sent to.
MR suites come currently come in a few different forms. They can be inside a facility in a dedicated set of rooms, which is more permanent and fixed. They can also be mobile, meaning the components are housed in a trailer that can be moved from one place to another. Lastly, the suite may be relocatable but housed in a trailer-like space that may be linked to the facility.
The first kind is the traditional MR suite that is housed inside the hospital or facility's main building. The cost of buying an MR scanner and the construction to install it, as well as ensuring the facility has the ability to support the power supply, may be expensive, but the benefits of having the scanner and being able to perform MR studies may outweigh the cost.
A mobile MR unit can be moved. These units are typically housed in a trailer of sorts that contains the computer, scanner and chiller. Traditionally, mobile MRI systems have to be plugged into the power source at the facility and undergo some set up after each move.
Mobile MRI systems can be particularly useful if a hospital does not have a consistent need for a new scanner or if they cannot house the scanner in their facility. Additionally, mobile MRI scanners can be moved to more remote locations to conduct imaging exams. For example, a mobile MRI unit made sense for a hospital in Finland whose patients live in remote areas and may have trouble driving to the hospital.1
There is also the option for an MR system and its components are placed within a relocatable container.2 This container includes all of the components including a generator. In some cases, the manufacturer of the system or the container, which may come with everything set-up inside of it, may even train the facility's staff on how to use the scanner. Developing countries may find this particularly useful since they most likely do not have as many people trained in radiology as developed countries would.
Relocatable MRI installation solutions offers similar benefits to mobile MRI suites, including accessibility in rural and remote areas. However, relocatable MRI suites also provide efficient shipping using boat, train and planes, accessibility to MRI technology in regions where it is not yet accessible, and requires less time and money to install once it arrives on site due to the system and all components being pre-installed within the container.
Benefits of alternative installation solutions
Both mobile and relocatable MR provide opportunities for patients in remote locales and developing countries. The goal for these alternative installation solutions is primarily to increase the accessibility of MR studies. However, there are some primary differences between mobile and relocatable MR, including the way the suites function and the contents of the suite when it arrives.
Mobile MRI scanners help to improve the coverage in remote areas or while a hospital is undergoing renovations. Because mobile scanners are housed in a trailer with wheels, they can be moved with relatively little effort. This can be particularly useful for hospitals or facilities with multiple locations, which may each need to have some time with the system.1 Additionally, these suites are able to be used temporarily while the facility undergoes renovation to house and MR scanner or for facilities who need an additional scanner for a short period of time, such as to catch up on backlog.
Relocatable MR scanners, on the other hand, include everything that is needed to complete scanning.2 According to Martijn Gevers, who works with these medical trailers, the system and all of its accompanying components are set up prior to installation.3 The manufacturers set up everything from the scanner to the chairs for the technologists. Once the system is installed, the facility may be able to use it right away. These systems are often more permanent ones than the mobile suites. They are designed to connect to an existing facility, one who may not have the space to add an MR scanner.
Relocatable, mobile and traditional MR suites are designed to provide better care and expand the availability of MRI. Patients who need these imaging studies live in different areas of the world, including those areas that may not have as much access to traditional MR facilities. Because of this, mobile and relocatable MR solutions may help to increase these patients' ability to have the medical imaging studies that they need.
- MRI on wheels: This scanner goes where the patient is. The Pulse. http://newsroom.gehealthcare.com/mri-on-wheels-this-scanner-goes-where-the-patient-is/. Last accessed November 1, 2019.
- Medical Trailer. Expandable.nl. https://www.expandable-healthcare.com/container/l10c3. Last accessed November 1, 2019.
- Mobile medical trailers. Telephone interview with Martijn Gevers. October 15, 2019.