ETMC Carthage Installs Permanent MRI

-- New unit expands radiology services to community --

Panola County residents will have greater access to MRI services, with the installation of a 1.5 tesla Philips Magnetic Resonance Imaging unit, expected to be ready for patient use later this month.

The new MRI unit represents a $1.3 million investment in healthcare technology at ETMC Carthage, as well as approximately $300,000 in construction costs to install the unit. The machine is also capable of MRA, or magnetic resonance angiography.

Previously, ETMC Carthage used mobile MRI services which were available one day a week and could serve a maximum of only 12 patients. The new unit will allow for coverage Monday through Friday.

"Because of the limited access of the mobile MRI service, many of our patients were having to go out of town for their MRI examination. ETMC administration saw the need to provide a higher level of service to Panola County residents and purchased a state-of-the-art closed magnet Philips MRI machine," said John Crisp, RT, medical imaging director at ETMC Carthage. He noted that closed magnet MRI technology provides superior image quality, as compared to open magnet MRI.

Construction of a room to house the new unit has been underway for several weeks, and included the installation of special copper shielding in the walls, floors and ceilings, which serves to contain the magnetic pull within the room.

MRI is a means of producing pictures of the inside of the body. It uses a strong magnet, radio waves and a computer to provide pictures that are highly sensitive to changes in normal anatomy. MRI is painless, does not use X-rays and does not have any known side effects.

The giant magnet of an MRI scanner causes the body's hydrogen atoms to "line up" with the magnetic field. With the use of radio waves, the energy released by these atoms is analyzed by high speed computers. The result is a highly detailed image of the area of the body being scanned.

The MRA capabilities of the new unit allow it to produce clear and accurate images of the body, specifically blood vessels and blood flow. MRA is most often used to study the blood vessels of the head and neck, but it may also be used to study the vessels of the heart, abdomen and extremities. MRA can help detect and determine the location and extent of blockage or narrowing in the vessels, conditions that can lead to stroke or heart attack. It can also detect aneurysms and tumors in the vessels and may be used to check circulation and screen for blood clots in the arms and legs. MRA may also be used to detect problems in the kidneys and nearby blood vessels.

"Not all patients can undergo MRI examinations due to certain types of implants containing ferrous metals that could be magnetized. These include cardiac pacemakers and brain aneurysm clips," Crisp said. "That is why our MRI technologists receive a great deal of training not only on performing MRIs, but also on screening patients before the exam."

The unit is wired to allow music to be piped in during an exam, and patients are encouraged to bring a CD of their favorite music to relax them during the exam. Technologists and the patient are able to talk to each other, as needed, throughout the exam.

ETMC Carthage is part of East Texas' largest healthcare system, the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System. ETMC is a not-for-profit organization committed to improving the quality of life in communities throughout East Texas.

Other ETMC facilities include hospitals in Athens, Clarksville, Crockett, Fairfield, Gilmer, Jacksonville, Mt. Vernon, Pittsburg, Quitman, Rusk, Trinity and Tyler.