Regional hospitals get new imaging machines

By Wayne Bryan Published November 7, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Using special rolling jacks, a new 5.1-ton MRI unit is hand-pushed into the imaging suite at Mercy Hospital Hot Springs. The unit provides more room for a patient during a scan.

Doctors can take a better noninvasive look inside their patients, while those being looked at can feel more comfortable, with the addition of new magnetic resonance imaging machines at two of the region’s larger hospitals.

A new MRI, costing more than $1 million and weighing 6 tons, was installed at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton on Oct. 28 as hospital personnel looked on.

Earlier, a 5.1-ton MRI unit, costing $1.1 million, was placed in Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs on July 30.

Both machines arrived on flatbed trucks and were placed on special rolling jacks by a large crane next to the imaging suites of each medical center so the unit could be pushed into place.

“It is more than a piece of equipment,” Saline Memorial CEO Bob Trautman said about the new MRI now being used in the hospital in Benton. This technology will allow us to provide a more comfortable experience for patients while maximizing our ability to successfully scan and diagnose patients.”

The MRI machine runs tests that use a magnetic field and pulses of radio-wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. The images give different information about structures in the body than can be seen in images created by an X-ray, an ultrasound or a computed tomography (CT) scan. The MRI technique can be used to examine almost any part of the body, including the brain and spinal cord, bones and joints, blood vessels, and internal organs such as the liver, womb or prostate gland.

“The results of an MRI scan can be used to help us diagnose conditions, plan treatments and assess how effective previous treatment has been,” said Dr. Bryan Jennings, radiologist and medical director of the Saline Memorial’s diagnostic imaging department. “This new equipment will allow us to test more patients here.”

Both the Toshiba American Medical Systems Vantage Titan, with a 71-centimeter aperture, placed in Saline Memorial, and the Siemens Espree 70-centimeter Open Bore machine now in Mercy Hot Springs are the latest technology and, because of the size of the patient space, can reduce a patient’s anxiety.

“Many imaging patients suffer from claustrophobia,” said Lisa Hyde, diagnostic-imaging manager at SMH. “This equipment allows most patients to go in feet first and provides a much larger space between the patient’s face and the magnet. This, along with the quieter technology, will help to reduce fears and hopefully provide a much more calming environment for our patients.”

Scanning any part of the body is now more comfortable for the patient, said Philip Ruth, director of imaging services at Mercy Hot Springs.

“When the patient’s head is positioned inside the open bore, such as for shoulder imaging,” he said, “the machine provides 30 centimeters (almost a foot) of space above a patient’s face — about twice that of the previous unit. As a result, the patients are more comfortable and relaxed during the exams.”

Ruth added that Mercy’s unit can be used in most clinical fields, such as neurology, orthopedics, angio (the medicine of blood vessels), cardiology, oncology and tissue imaging.

While the units are large and require the use of heavy equipment to be placed inside the hospitals, MRIs are still delicate medical instruments and must be handled carefully.

“Extreme care must be taken when offloading the magnet from the air-ride transport truck and moving the approximate 12,000-pound magnet to its exact location in the imaging suite,” said Greg G. Atkins, senior installation project manager for Toshiba, who oversaw the placement of the MRI unit in Saline Memorial. “Though not a ‘magnet’ at the time of delivery, it is pressurized and filled at the factory with liquid helium and must not be tilted or bumped during the move.”

The new imaging machines at both hospitals replaced older units.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or at

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or

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