A new piece of technology at Tanner Health System will help cardiac and vascular specialists get a better picture of patients’ cardiovascular health.
The MAGNETOM Aera 1.5T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system from Siemens Healthcare was installed last month at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton. A crane was brought in to lift the 12,000-pound magnet from a flatbed truck as a half-dozen specially trained equipment movers used skates and jacks to maneuver the system into place.
The new system places Tanner on the leading edge of healthcare providers throughout the country offering non-contrast magnetic resonance angiography, or MRA, as well as heart MRI imaging. The technologies use the MRI’s powerful magnet to manipulate the iron in a patient’s blood, read how the iron responds and capture extremely detailed images — all without contrast and without radiation.
Timothy Albert, MD, a board-certified cardiologist and cardiovascular imaging specialist with Tanner Heart & Vascular Specialists, is working alongside researchers from Siemens to place this advanced capability in a community care setting.
“The beauty of it is, we’re able to perform cardiovascular imaging that’s safer for everyone, particularly our more vulnerable patients,” said Dr. Albert. “Patients who have advanced diabetes or kidney issues have had no access to imaging because the injected contrast could be harmful to them.”
The technology places Tanner ahead of other regional providers — and even many larger healthcare providers and research facilities — in offering an innovative alternative to traditional cardiac and vascular imaging.
Non-contrast MRA is used to help diagnose a number of blood vessel conditions, including problems with the aorta and the blood vessels that supply all major organs and extremities. Similarly, cardiac MRI provides dynamic imaging, allowing physicians to see heart function and the structure of the heart as the heart moves — making diagnoses while watching the heart move with high-definition, almost real-time imaging.
While periodic exposure to low doses of radiation — such as the X-rays used for traditional angiography and cardiac CT imaging — has not been shown to have long-term consequences, providers have been concerned about the safety of patients who have required repeated imaging, as well as patients who have demonstrated a sensitivity to contrast material. Since the MRI uses magnets rather than X-rays, there’s no radiation exposure for the patient.
“We want to do no harm now, and we want to do no harm in the future,” said Dr. Albert. “This allows us to be reassured on both of those things.”
The system also features a much larger gantry to better accommodate patients who are uncomfortable in more enclosed spaces.
Patients in the new system’s more spacious gantry will lie in the middle of a core manufactured in England and transported through the Chunnel and over ground to Germany, where the rest of the scanner was assembled before being flown via air freight to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
The system had to be cooled to nearly -460 degrees Fahrenheit to take the appropriate charge, and crews have worked in the past few weeks to meticulously hone the scanner’s powerful magnetic field to ensure it provides the clearest, most detailed images possible.
Tanner looks to demonstrate the value of cardiac and advanced non-contrast imaging in a community care setting, as well as working alongside Siemens on research and development projects — putting Tanner at the innovation forefront for this type of imaging.
“This is a truly unique program, especially for a community healthcare provider like Tanner,” said Dr. Albert. “It’s going to help us do a lot of good here, in our region, and it’s also going to provide data that demonstrates how this technology could help others in regions much like our own.”
“With its delivery of the MAGNETOM Aera 1.5T MRI system, Siemens Healthcare is proud to work closely with Tanner Medical Center to realize its goal of improving clinical workflow and providing cutting-edge cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging in a community hospital setting,” said Murat Gungor, vice president of magnetic resonance at Siemens Healthcare North America.
More information on the cardiac services available through Tanner is available at www.TannerHeartCare.org.