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Essential Keys to Improving Safety and Comfort in the MRI Suite


Advances in MRI modalities and capabilities can facilitate optimal comfort and help alleviate anxiety for patients.

Approximately 40 million magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are performed annually in the United States, a statistic that underscores the value of the modality in helping providers diagnose a wide array of diseases. MRIs can aid in evaluating injuries of the back, knee, and other joints, identifying anomalies of the brain and spinal cord, and diagnosing diseases of the liver and other abdominal organs to name a few.

In contrast with other imaging modalities, MRI does not use ionizing radiation and is safe for patients and operators when used appropriately. To ensure patient and staff safety, health-care professionals must follow some important guidelines and invest in MRI technology that reduces patient anxiety. Accordingly, let us take a closer look at ways providers can enhance safety in the MRI room while boosting patient comfort and satisfaction during the MRI experience.

Emphasizing Safety First

Providers should take several steps to ensure the MRI room and the exam procedures are as safe as possible for staff, patients, and clinicians.

Providers must place a priority on comprehensive training and building awareness of possible MRI hazards with key staff. MRI technologists must be thoroughly trained in MRI best practices and protocols. To ensure safety, it is incumbent on providers to seek out and use every training avenue available from the American College of Radiology (ACR) as well as manufacturer resources.

Providers also need to ensure there is comprehensive screening of all patients before they enter the MRI suite. This ranges from having patients fill out forms about their health and any medical devices or implants they may have to providing patients with a safe garment to change into before entering the MRI suite.

Easing patient anxiety is another way to improve safety. The less nervous a patient, the more efficient and quickly the scan will get done, increasing the odds of everything going smoothly and reducing the chances for error or accidents. Every patient and every situation are unique. However, there are several proven ways providers can enhance comfort with various patient populations.

Addressing Comfort for Overweight and Obese Patients

Over 73% of adults over the age of 20 were classified as overweight according to 2017-2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even more concerning, according to the same study, obesity affects 1 in 3 Americans and research suggests that by 2030, nearly 50 percent of older adults will be affected by obesity.

When it comes to MRI machines,bigger has proven to be better. The more at ease patients are during an MRI scan, the more likely the technologist can get the scan right the first time.

Choose equipment that increases the comfort quotient. Fujifilm’s Echelon Oval 1.5T MRI system has the widest bore available (74 cm) with the widest patient table (63 cm) for maximum patient comfort. This is ideal for patients of size as well as anyone who feels vulnerable, such as elderly patients and children.

Easing Anxiety Issues for Claustrophobic Patients

Claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces, is relatively common with research estimating that approximately 2.2 percent of the population suffers from this anxiety disorder. The prevalence of claustrophobia is higher among women than men. In addition, people who may already struggle with general anxiety or experience panic attacks may be more susceptible to a fear of enclosed spaces.

Studies have shown that many people suffer from claustrophobic feelings while undergoing MRI. In fact,one study found that approximately 1 in 10 patients experience claustrophobia during MRI scans. Clearly, an MRI will not be a welcome procedure for the average claustrophobic patient.

Providers can address this problem by offering an open MRI experience. Fujifilm’s new Velocity MRI system defines what true open MRI is all about: the unique patient comfort and accommodation benefits of open-sided MRI combined with the workflow and image quality benefits of integrated RF coils and enhanced reconstruction technologies. The scanner’s unique, open gantry creates a spacious feeling for claustrophobic, bariatric, geriatric, and pediatric patients. Additionally, the Velocity MRI system’s open-sided gantry provides easy patient access for real-time interventional procedures.

In addition to the negative impact for patients, claustrophobia can also be damaging to a provider’s bottom line. When patients with a fear of tight spaces arrive for a scheduled MRI, all too often they cannot make it through the exam. This wastes valuable staff time and costs the organization money, not to mention the patient failing to get a scan and diagnosis. It’s a lose-lose situation. However, with a state-of-the-art open MRI, exposure to tight spaces during a scanning procedure is a thing of the past and everyone benefits.

Alleviating the Concerns of Geriatric and Pediatric Patients

Providers know their oldest and youngest patients are also their most vulnerable patients. The elderly and young children often have great difficulty enduring an MRI. These situations sometimes call for sedation. While sedating the patient is one way to ensure the scan gets accomplished, it can mean more staff, time, cost, and safety concerns.

Fortunately, there are many other ways to ease the anxieties of these vulnerable populations and reduce the need for sedation. As I mentioned earlier, wide bore and open machines keep patients comfortable, which can also help children—who have a harder time staying still—fidget less. That helps your technologist get a more accurate scan the first time.

Finally, quiet and calm go hand in hand.MRI machines can be terribly loud, which can be upsetting for many patients, particularly children and the elderly. Providers can offer noise-cancelling headphones or even invest in MRI sound systems that play music. Better yet, providers can choose MRI scanners that are already engineered to make less audible noise. Fujifilm’s Velocity 1.2T open MRI offers reduced noise scanning and soothing ambient lighting that help patients relax even more. A quieter machine reduces anxiety, which translates to a better patient experience and an opportunity for your technologist to get the best scan the first time.

In Conclusion

Providers must always be vigilant when formulating, communicating, and implementing safety policies and procedures for MRI. In the MRI suite, safety should always be top priority. Moreover, patient comfort is the flip side of the coin. Better comfort equals increased compliance and better safety. Addressing both sides of the coin is a clear win for two parties: patients and providers.

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