Special report: The economics of MRI Coils

by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer | September 17, 2012
International Day of Radiology 2012
From the September 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

“Coils are becoming more complicated and as a result of that it takes a vigilance and ability to understand the design to be able to repair them effectively,” ScanMed’s Richard says.

In order to properly step up a repair facility’s capabilities, a vast amount of training, time and effort is required.

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“Field service engineers often feel that once they have repaired an MRI system, they can go ahead and repair coils,” says Richard. “That is still true of some of the older coils on the market, but as we are getting into more and more complex 8-channel, 16-channel and 32-channel coils, you really have to know what you’re doing to effectively repair them.”

Richard says that it is important that a repair facility knows what is it to reverse engineer something and understands the theory behind the coil’s operation, as well as the theory behind an MRI system. After all, there is a major difference between scientific and technical, he says.

And as the technology advances, coils get more cumbersome and awkward to move around. Not to mention, more expensive. Considering the most common MRI coil issue is damage due to mishandling, this is not ideal. To mitigate this issue, companies like Siemens have been working on lighter coils, like Tim (Total imaging matrix) 4G workflow technology, that are either built into the MRI table or directly connect to the table with short cabling or no cable at all.

“Our spine coil, for example, is integrated into the patient table, and software enables the technologists to turn on elements of the coil,” says John Metellus, product manager at Siemens Healthcare. “So you’re not lifting a big heavy spine coil and bringing it to the table; it’s already on the table. As you need it, you just bring it into the equation. If you’re doing an upper spine versus a lower spine, you just remotely turn on the elements needed. If you want to do a head scan, again via software control, you could turn that coil on and then you just add the anterior portion to complete the coil and improve your signal to noise.”

Price point: 1.5T and 3T MRI coils
In the U.S. MRI market today, 1.5T coils take up 65 percent of the market, while 3T coils make up the remaining 35 percent, according to Suresh Narayan, senior manager of market development, MR at Toshiba.

“1.5T is certainly the biggest portion of the business, overall,” says ScanMed’s Johnson. “A 3T scanner costs significantly more, so when you are looking at the economy and return on investment, the 1.5T is still a bigger seller.”

Siemens Healthcare’s
integrated with Tim 4G.

The average price tag for a 3T MRI unit is about $2.4 million, according to a recent ECRI Institute report. But Siemens recently revealed its MAGNETOM Spectra, a new 3T MRI scanner being marketed as more budget than most 3T units. The device was granted Food and Drug Administration 510(k) clearance in July.

“One-third of our sales are focused on the 3T market, and it’s growing,” says Siemens’ Metellus.

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