Expanding equipment capabilities with sustainable MRI upgrades

Sustainability efforts across industries and around the globe are needed to prevent the depletion of natural resources. As defined by the United Nations, sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.[1]

Human activities are responsible for almost all of the atmospheric greenhouse gas increases over the last 150 years.[2] The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation. To create a sustainable society, individuals and industries are working collaboratively to be socially responsible and focus on environmental protection for a healthier planet and its inhabitants.

Sustainability in healthcare

The healthcare industry is responsible for four percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.[3] Hospitals are the second-most energy-intensive commercial buildings in the US.[4] Typically large buildings, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hospitals contain several energy-intensive activities, including sophisticated heating, cooling, and ventilation systems; computing, medical, and laboratory equipment; and sterilization, refrigeration, laundry, and food service departments.[5]

In addition to the energy used on-site, healthcare providers rely on energy-intensive services, such as medical imaging, which require significant energy inputs for manufacturing and transportation.   

Balancing sustainability initiatives in medical imaging requires planning and foresight to achieve important clinical goals of providing high-quality care and improving patient outcomes. Using cutting-edge imaging technology, such as magnetic resonance imaging, (MRI) while simultaneously implementing measures to reduce emissions and energy consumption can seem paradoxical. However, understanding and taking advantage of opportunities where both objectives can be achieved can help hospitals and care providers improve efficiency while reducing costs.[6]

Sustainable MRI innovations impact and lengthen equipment life cycles

MRI technology is widely used in healthcare today and has profoundly transformed clinical diagnostics with non-invasive and non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques. Its many benefits make it a critical tool for clinicians who understand how the most current MRI technology—with its continued improvements in visual and functional information—can benefit patient outcomes.

The introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and deep-learning algorithms to MR image reconstruction is also an exciting realization of imaging technology that enables faster, more intelligent diagnostic imaging systems. AI is proving effective in supporting clinical decision-making, reducing complexity, and increasing productivity.

Current market analysis predicts the use of MRI scanning will only increase, backed by a documented 31 percent increase in utilization between 2007 and 2018.[7] The need for more MRI scanning could be influenced by the world’s aging population, chronic health conditions, and more complex health problems. Therefore it becomes more important to keep MRI equipment updated to manage this increase in volume. However, according to market data, in 2018, the median age of an installed base MRI system was seven years, and the average replacement cycle of an MRI scanner was 12.8 years.[8] The significant financial investment required for MRI systems can make the continued updating of equipment challenging for some providers.

Clinicians and radiology administrators consider many factors when forecasting a system’s replacement timeline. Factors identified include multiple clinical needs, system use levels, and setting needs. This can lead to variability in system retention, with units likely to be replaced when they are between 13-21 years old.[9] The current planning process also typically evaluates safety, cost, and efficiency. Today’s radiology teams and hospital administrators also need to consider sustainability—measuring and evaluating MRI options through a lens of environmental impact.

MRI upgrades transform to wide bore and improve the patient experience

One way to reduce the environmental impact of imaging equipment is by extending the life of MRI systems by upgrading their capabilities via new hardware and software. Industry partners such as GE Healthcare are offering customers alternative paths in MRI that can not only extend a system’s usable life but do it with expanded clinical capabilities, regaining state-of-the-art technology and opening opportunities to increase accessibility for patients.



Wider cross-section in MR bore

60cm to 70 cm

Upgrade from narrow to wide bore


The MRI upgrade for both legacy 1.5T and 3.0T systems allows for no magnet wastage, reduced helium usage, and lower reconstruction costs. Transforming an existing MR system in this way means minimal disruption to daily practice with less downtime, granting staff more time focused on patient care.

Further, with this hardware transformation*, it is possible to go from a narrow 60 cm bore to a wider bore of 70 cm and gain the opportunity to accommodate larger patients as well as those patients who may have opted for a wider bore MRI experience through another provider. The larger bore enables widening the cross-section by 36 percent, giving patients extra room during their scan and with feet-first imaging, additionally it can reduce claustrophobia rejection rates by 90 percent while boosting comfort and patient satisfaction.**  Additionally, the newer designs in MRI coils that are blanket-like and light-weight also contribute to an enhanced patient experience from setup through the exam.

“Patient comfort, in fact, increased because, incredibly, with the same magnet, the diameter of the bore increased from 60-70 cm,” explained Damien Galanaud, M.D., Ph.D., Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, France, “meaning that we had much less problems with claustrophobia.”


Open up Family video - Gated


Legacy MRI equipment born again through technology updates to advance clinical capabilities

Utilizing AI and deep-learning algorithms within MRI image reconstruction is an evolution of technology  enabling improvements in MR that haven’t been possible using traditional reconstruction methods. Healthcare providers are using these new technologies to produce high-quality images with shorter scan times. These technologies are available as an upgrade to existing installed systems, so users can access state-of-the-art technology and image reconstruction without having to purchase new systems.

“To upgrade the machine instead of replacing it,” explained Nadya Pyatigorska, Pitié Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, France, “allowed us to have a more advanced machine at a reasonable cost.”


SIGNA™ Premier Evo Testimonial

GE Healthcare’s latest MR reconstruction technology is a deep-learning trained algorithm to reconstruct sharper images by leveraging all of the raw MRI acquisition data. The deep-learning reconstruction delivers a higher signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio with multiple user-selectable improvement levels and is compatible with all anatomies, while enabling a faster acquisition.  Advances like these in MRI technology, as well as deep-learning-based innovations in image reconstruction, have enabled compelling results thus far, even on previous-generation scanners. Improved quality can be a game changer for the radiologists reading these images—as higher quality, clearer images can lead to more confident diagnoses.

Enabling a sustainable future by expanding the possibilities in MRI

Health systems, clinicians, and industry leaders have sharpened their focus on environmentally conscious activities and practices that can have an impact on preserving the planet. Imaging equipment manufacturers like GE Healthcare are committed to implementing sustainable practices not only across manufacturing but also throughout the product’s life cycle, working to extend the product lifespan with transformative programs for hardware and software. Improving existing MRI systems extends their clinical usability and the life of the system itself at a fraction of the cost of a replacement and with the potential for a 40 percent faster return on investment.^ As MRI continues to be a key resource for providing clinical insights, innovative technologies continue to evolve image quality and workflow efficiencies.

Continuous technological developments over the years, including upgrading MR systems from narrow to wide bore and the latest clinical applications are enabling MR services to become more accessible, and at a fraction of the cost of buying new. Industry leaders continue to focus on developing and delivering MRI innovation to holistically improve efficiencies in clinical and operational radiology workflows.

Explore GE Healthcare’s MRI upgrade from narrow to wide bore to learn how opening up possibilities with MR can be achieved while driving sustainability.  



Not all products or features are available in all geographies. Check with your local GE Healthcare representative for availability in your country.

* SIGNA™ Artist Evo is 510(k) cleared in the USA. Not CE Marked, not available for sale in all regions.

**GE Healthcare data on file. Claustrophobia rate comparison head-first/feet-first

^ Based on the discussion and qualitative interviews with various stakeholders at Precision Imaging Center conducted in October 2022.


[1] https://www.un.org/en/academic-impact/sustainability

[2] https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions

[3] https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.01247#:~:text=The%20health%20care%20industry%20is,stemming%20from%20fossil%20fuel%20combustion.

[4] https://www.magazine.medicaltourism.com/article/an-introduction-to-sustainability-in-healthcare-the-next-big-thing

[5] https://www.magazine.medicaltourism.com/article/an-introduction-to-sustainability-in-healthcare-the-next-big-thing

[7] 2018 MR Market Outlook Report, IMV, https://imvinfo.com/product/2018-mr-market-outlook-report/

[8] 2018 MR Market Outlook Report, IMV, https://imvinfo.com/product/2018-mr-market-outlook-report/

[9] 2018 MR Market Outlook Report, IMV, https://imvinfo.com/product/2018-mr-market-outlook-report/