Feature article

How patient comfort is enhanced with new coil technology for MRI

When imaging a patient, technologists place a piece of equipment, called a coil, near the region of interest on the patient. Coils are an important part of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), because they broadcast the signals from our bodies to the MR and the computer as data. This data is then used to create the images that doctors use to assess and monitor a disease. However, traditional coils have not always been comfortable for patients. There has recently been a push toward patient comfort, which has sparked the invention of lighter, more durable and multi-purpose coils.1

Traditional coils are heavy, which could make it difficult to image some patients, for example children, elderly patients or patients with injuries. Making coils more lightweight has helped technologists image these patients. The heavier coils could restrict the breathing of a patient being imaged, especially a child or elderly patient because their muscles are not always strong enough. The innovative, lightweight coils allow technologists to put the coil over a patient's chest and abdomen without restricting their respiratory movement.2,3 The decreased weight is also more comfortable for patients with injury to the chest and abdomen.Buyers Guide_950x250.jpg

New coils have also become more durable, as well as still being flexible. Before the intervention of modern engineering, coils were rigid and could be difficult to position. If the patient has a medical support device, the rigid coils could make it difficult to position the patient. Additionally, patients may not be able to be positioned comfortably with rigid coils. More flexible coils can allow a patient to be comfortable without sacrificing the image quality that the radiologist needs to read the scan. Technologists can use positioners to keep these coils in place, if needed. 

Also, radiology departments, depending on budget restraints, often had to select only one size for their traditional coil, which could limit imaging of a wide range of patients and sacrificing image quality, due to the wrong sized coil for each individual patient. Larger patients may have been more uncomfortable with these coils, because they may have been tighter for them than the average sized adult. Multi-purpose coils on the other hand, can be positioned around a patient and secured with positioners. Some coils are blanket-like and can cover a patient more fully while also being close to the body. These innovative coils can be used on a variety of body parts which previously required a specialized or dedicated coil, such as the shoulder, and could reduce the need for a wide variety of coils.

Engineers have been inspired by the push towards patient comfort to make more lightweight and durable coils which can be used to image more patients in more areas of the body. These coils have enabled the imaging of children and adults who do not fit the one-size-fits-all rigid coils of the past. This innovation has increased patient satisfaction across the spectrum.1,2,3

For more information, read the SIGNA Pulse article “A lighter, more flexible and comfortable way to scan.”

References

1. Utaroh Motosugi. “A lighter, more flexible and comfortable way to scan.” SIGNA Pulse. Autumn 2018. Web. 5 March 2019. <http://www.gesignapulse.com/signapulse/autumn_2018/MobilePagedReplica.action?pm=1&folio=18#pg18>.

2. Matt O’Connor. “New flexible pediatric MRI coil preferred by patients, clinicians.” com. 27 February 2019. Web. 5 March 2019.

3. Subrata Thakar. “Could MRI coils mimicking ‘second skin’ be a tool in MR efficacy, patient experience?” com. 16 November 2017. Web. 5 March 2019. <https://www.radiologybusiness.com/topics/imaging-informatics/could-mri-coils-mimicking-second-skin-be-tool-mri-efficacy-patient>.