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Will fewer MR coils be required in the future?

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 14, 2015

MR Instruments DuoFLEX
From the September 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Rigid, anatomy-specific coils have traditionally been used for MR exams, but in the last three to four years there has been growing interest in multi-purpose, flexible coils that fit any anatomical area. The days of trying to fit a rigid coil on a swollen knee are now in the past. Today, hospitals are trying to achieve better quality while reducing costs. Since flexible coils can serve a variety of different applications, they may help them do just that.

Hospitals that can afford the newer 3T MR systems are speeding up their exams and getting higher resolution images. However, 3T systems are not the only way to achieve that. New coils with more channels are able to achieve comparable signal-to-noise on 1.5T systems.

Whether or not these less-expensive, multi-purpose flexible coils will replace the standard, rigid, anatomy-specific coils remains to be seen. But as the industry searches for ways to cut costs, it seems more likely.

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From rigid to flexible
Both the OEMs and third-party companies currently offer a range of flexible coils. GE Healthcare has its GEM Suite coils that are designed to be used with its Optima MR450W 1.5T MR. Toshiba America Medical Systems has 16-channel flexible coils for its Vantage Titan 1.5T and 3T systems. Siemens Healthcare also recently started offering 16-channel flexible coils.

The third-party company, MR Instruments, offers an 8-channel flexible coil with two paddles that is compatible with the GE 1.5T MR system as well as older systems. It comes in a 24-centimeter model and a 10-centimeter model.

One major benefit of flexible coils is that they can help save money. A hospital will usually purchase seven to 10 rigid coils at $30,000 to $40,000 each, but it would only need to purchase one flexible coil. In addition, a hospital can usually get a return on investment on a flexible coil in 12 to 18 months since it can be used to image patients who don’t fit in a rigid coil and can also be used for new applications. A few of those new applications include imaging the sternoclavicular joint at the top of the chest and the brachial plexus, which is the network of nerves that originates near the
neck and shoulder.

“With these types of exams, the doctors look for specific information, but really there wasn’t a specific coil to gather that data,” says Andrew Beck, vice president of sales and marketing at MR Instruments. “The technologist would have to try to figure out with the assorted coils he has, what would work best to cover that anatomical area.”

Outpatient and hospital-based facilities often use flexible coils to augment their legacy systems. They are able to keep those systems longer and bring in new referrals because they have a new coil that achieves better image quality and allows them to perform those new applications.

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