Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging procedure that uses a large magnet, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI does not use radiation, as do X-rays or CT scans. Patients have choices when it comes to imaging needs, especially if they suffer from claustrophobia. They can choose closed or open MRI machines. Each type of machine varies in terms of magnet strength, and there are pros and cons for each one. Knowing the differences between the two will assist patients in making the best decision for their health.

Stand-up MRI Machines

A stand-up MRI scanner features MRI-compatible, motorized, patient positioning system, which has been engineered to be fully functional inside the scanner’s magnetic field. It can position the patient for the full range of conventional “lie-down” MRI scanning, or upright for weight-bearing studies. The full length of the spine can be imaged in the normal weight-bearing posture, even with the patient touching their toes for full flexion images of the lumbar spine.

Closed MRI Machines

A closed MRI machine is a cylinder like space that the patient lies in where the scan takes place. The patient needs to remain extremely still in order to obtain high quality images. The magnet strength for a closed MRI machine ranges from 0.3t – 3.0t with the standard being 1.5t. These closed machines typically produce excellent image quality, however, they are not always the best option. For example, children, and those who suffer from anxiety may not be able to use a traditional closed MRI scanner.

Open MRI Machines

Open MRI Machines differ from closed in the way that patients are not surrounded on all sides. Magnets are positioned on the top and the bottom with a large open space for the patient to lay in between. People with any type of anxiety or who find themselves claustrophobic enjoy open MRI machines. Additionally, patients who have a hard time remaining still in small spaces such as children benefit greatly from open MRI machines. These specific machines have magnets that range from 0.2t – 1.2t. While the magnet strength is not as strong as traditional closed machines, the open MRI scanners produce suburb image quality. The benefits for the patient often outweigh the lower field magnets primarily because of their ease and increased comfort level.

Tips, Tricks, and Advice

Knowing the main advantages and disadvantages of closed and open MRI machines is an important element in the imaging process. Once a patient determines which machine is the best fit, finding the appropriate imaging facility is challenging. Often, imaging centers only use one type of machine making the choice limiting for the patient. It is always a good idea to consult with a third party company who specializes in locating imaging centers. Using a knowledgeable organization is vital in getting the right price at the best facility.

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