Some would argue that the world is constantly changing, especially with new and innovative technology being released on a regular basis. Cell phones, for example, have come a long way since their introduction. Traditionally, what was used only for calling people when not at home now is a main communication source through calls, texts, web-browsing and so much more. Many types of technology have faced the same sort of shift in importance. Medical imaging scanners of all kinds have been developed for radiology departments and hospitals, which are used as a tool for treatment planning. Since their introduction, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners have evolved technologically and clinically, which can be difficult to keep up with. Although the average American may keep up with cell phone updates, some radiology departments may not keep up with advancing MRI technologies for a few different reasons. Upgrading your MRI does not have to be hard, however, and may provide a wide variety of benefits.
Why would you upgrade your MRI?
The field of MRI changes constantly. New innovations are introduced, so as the MRI scanner ages, the technology that used to be the latest and greatest is no longer the most up to date. This can be due to a number of factors, including new software or new engineering designs. In some cases, both of these factors can play a role.
One may not upgrade their scanner after every innovation. However, a combination of upgrades, once available, may be beneficial. When purchasing an MRI, it is often a large investment, including the MRI system as well as possible construction costs, such as those to accommodate the size of the scanner, isolate the electromagnetic field to include only the MR suite or to adapt to the increased power supply needed for a scanner. Because it's a large investment, it's important to take into consideration the lifecycle of your MRI. You want to be able to depend on the technology for the long term and ensure your radiology department goals are met with the MR scanner that was chosen.
The average lifespan of an MR scanner is about 12 years, though some are likely to be replaced at 13-21 years or sometimes when they are even older.1 The lifespan of the scanner may be reset when an upgrade to the hardware or software or both occurs. This is because the strength and quality of the magnet is dependable and often only the hardware and software need to be updated through an upgrade option.
What kinds of upgrades are available for MRI systems?
The term upgrade encompasses a wide range of choices for a magnetic resonance imaging system. A facility may decide to replace the scanner outright with a newer model or choose a higher field strength. However, when keeping the same field strength, there are many options to gain the latest technology developments through upgrading your existing system with new hardware and software options.
- Replacing with a newer model: When completely replacing the scanner, the old scanner is removed and a new one is brought in. This is a replacement of the entire system, including software and hardware. This can be difficult due to the need to remove the scanner, with the large magnet, and introduce a new scanner. In order to replace a scanner, the hospital will often need to undergo construction due to the size of the scanner compared to the pathways it has to go through for installation.
- Upgrading software: When a facility decides to upgrade the software of their existing machine, they will often receive a state-of-the-art software package with advancements in MR imaging performance and productivity. This provides some of the updated technology that has been implemented since the facility originally bought the scanner. However, it does not include a hardware upgrade. New advancements in software applications can lead to advancements in clinical capabilities, such as advanced imaging previously unattainable and faster scanning to improve throughput, as well as consistency, quantification and personalizing the experience for each patient.
- Upgrading hardware and software: When upgrading the hardware of a current scanner, you get a newer generation of the scanner that is built around your existing magnet. The hardware upgrade may include updating some hardware components such as the host computer, electronics and gradients, or a hardware and software upgrade could include everything except the magnet. The cost for upgrading a scanner rather than replacing it, is often reduced by as much as 50%. Many facilities that upgrade their hardware will also upgrade their software in order to receive the associated benefits, such as faster imaging, higher resolution and improved image quality. With the newer hardware and technology implemented, this will enable the capabilities of the latest software releases for advancing your clinical diagnostics to meet your needs.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has improved since its introduction, especially in quality and application. Scanners are becoming more and more available to patients and facilities throughout the world. Keeping these scanners up-to-date may seem like a challenge, but a facility's options are open depending on the goals and needs of the business. Introducing these new aspects of the scanner may help to improve workflow and enable a wider range of imaging exams. A facility can work with their vendor representative to understand the upgrade benefits aligned to the department or business's goals and needs, considering the different types of upgrades and the expected outcomes, both long- and short-term, of an upgrade. It is important to consider the options and pick the best option for you.
- 2018 MR Market Out look Report. IMV. https://imvinfo.com/product/2018-mr-market-outlook-report/. Last accessed August 23, 2019.