Combination of three new, high-powered MRI systems at PENN is a first in the US

One is 'more open' for larger patients

(Philadelphia, PA) - The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) is now home to three brand new, state-of-the-art, high powered MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) systems. The combination of the three units is a "Radiology First" for any hospital in the United States, which is especially fitting since HUP was the first hospital to get and use an MRI back in 1984.

Now standing side-by-side on the ground floor of HUP in the newly renovated MR Suite in the Devon Imaging Center, each scanner offers unique capabilities:

-World's first open-bore 1.5 Tesla, high-field magnet - It is the only one of its kind currently available. It is designed with a larger diameter opening and a shorter tunnel, making it ideal to use with claustrophobic patients or larger patients (it can scan someone weighing up to 550 pounds). At 125 cm (approximately four feet), it allows for more than 60% of exams to be completed with the patient's head outside of the bore, easing issues of claustrophobia. Plus, with a bore opening of 70 cm (nearly 2.3 feet) in diameter and the average distance between a patient's head and the MRI magnet at almost one foot, the Espree provides enough room for larger patients.

"The open configuration will also allow us to reach the patient while still in the scanner, in order to perform breast biopsies and certain interventional procedures like needle ablation," said Mitchell Schnall, MD, PhD, Associate Chair of Research in Radiology at Penn.

-A 1.5 Tesla - It has special hardware and software to be able to capture a faster beating heart. This MRI receives 32 signals at once versus 4 or 8 for the older ones. The more signals it receives - and reads -- the faster it can image. So, instead of just seeing one slice of a beating heart in a breath-hold signal, we'll be able to see the entire beating heart. This is especially good for those patients who cannot easily hold their breath or who have irregular heartbeats.

"The heart is hard to image because of its constant movement of pumping blood; normally you have to be able to scan fast enough within heartbeats and breath holds," comments Harold Litt, MD, PhD, Chief of Cardiovascular Imaging at Penn. "But now we can image patients while they are breathing and still get a sharp image."

-A 3 Tesla - It's a higher field instrument (a stronger magnet) to give us higher resolution capabilities. This sharper imaging will especially benefit patients with neurological problems requiring better anatomical and functional images of the brain.

Elias Melhem, MD, PhD, Associate Chair for Neueroradiology at Penn, adds, "This is an ultra high field; it has twice the field strength, creating a new level of excellence in imaging the brain and potentially allowing us to detect and diagnose disease states earlier. What this means is, with this scanner, for instance in brain tumor imaging -- we may be able to identify what type it is, what its true extent is, and even try to assess the outcomes of certain treatments."

Another interesting component to all three of the new MRIs is that they are outfitted with Tim (Total imaging matrix) technology, meaning that all the coils needed to perform a scan on different body parts are already in place. Therefore, a patient does not have to be moved in and out of the scanner several times while a coil is moved around. This makes it more comfortable for the patient and also significantly lessens the scan time.

Nick Bryan, MD, PhD, Chair of Radiology at Penn, summarizes the importance of this new addition, "It can be frightening to go see a doctor, much less have a scan done. Essentially what this new complement of scanners is offering to our patients is an experience that is more comfortable; higher strength scanners resulting in higher quality images obtained faster; and leading, ultimately, to better diagnoses and treatment."

Bryan goes on to say, "With a total of 10 MRI scanners in our health system, we now have a greater capacity for better exams on more patients."

All three new magnets, made by Siemens, are now up and running for patients.


Editor's Notes:

To come see the new MRIs or to schedule an interview with Drs. Mitchell Schnall, Harold Litt, Elias Melhem or Nick Bryan, please contact Susanne Hartman at 215 349-5964 or [email protected].

For more information on Penn Radiology Services, go on-line to:

For more information on the Espree, the Avanto or the Trio MRI systems, go on-line to:

Images available upon request. PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals [Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, which is consistently ranked one of the nation's few "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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