Understanding the functionality of the MRI system and the required service to continue optimal performance can be overwhelming. Just comprehending the physics of how the system produces a diagnostic image can be intimidating. While some users may have the appropriate skill set in imaging equipment, it is most beneficial to seek help from a qualified professional to conduct monthly checks on MRI machines, making sure the systems are clean, properly working, and there are no RF leaks. MRI systems are complex and sensitive, not to mention pricey, so it’s better to avoid the risk of further damage.
Before we move further, it is important to establish an understanding of the safety factors for those in the presence of a strong magnet system. As discussed in the site planning section, strict precautions regarding metal objects must be adhered to for the safety of individuals as well as the MRI machine. For example, keys, scissors, stethoscopes and any other small objects can be pulled off the body at very high speeds, and fly toward the opening of the magnet where the patient is placed. The more mass an object has such as oxygen tanks, patient stretchers, and heart monitors, the more dangerous it can be as the magnet attraction is much stronger. Patients and staff members should be thoroughly screened for metal objects and metal implants prior to entering the scan room.
When looking at the requirements for MRI maintenance, it is best to consider the system in several blocks, and focus on each component of the MRI. It is also important to understand how each block impacts one another. When a magnet system is first installed, a number of tests are typically performed to ensure optimal performance. Once the MRI system is installed, daily quality checks are needed to monitor system performance. Since each manufacturer has their own proprietary approach based on the make and model, it is up to the user to understand the basis of performing specific tests, calibrations, and troubleshooting.
The MRI system obtains raw data through interpretation of RF information, and rooms must be shielded from all external RF signals. It should become a practice to inspect all areas of shielding. Inspect the door on a regular basis to ensure shielding elements are intact and surfaces are clean; and inspect the penetration panel to ensure no cable connections or shielding plates have become loose during service. RF leaks within the room can cause poor images, and costs valuable time tracing down and fixing the issue.
Magnet MRI maintenance should focus on ensuring proper center frequency, maintaining proper shim to provide homogeneity of the image, ensuring proper cooling on the helium vessel, and overall mechanical condition. The primary focus is to make sure all screws are tight and no components or cables are loose. Remember, the magnet does not shut down and remains fully powered even when the system is not imaging.
Finally, bear in mind that while magnets may last forever, MRI software upgrades are frequent, as advancements are constantly occurring. Even if you don’t have the latest upgrades, be sure your system is performing up to par and all the components are working cohesively.
The cost for helium has risen between 15% and 30% (based on regional demand), and is expected to continue increasing. With helium becoming scarce and prices going up, be sure to maintain a careful system monitoring for helium fills. Scheduling more frequent helium fills is a good idea in the event the shortage becomes massive and cryogen vendors cap the number of liters that can be dispensed in a single visit.
MRI Damage & Warranty
Since MRI scanners do not possess many moveable parts like other imaging systems, it is very unlikely for the machine to experience extensive damage. For an MRI, in particular, there is typically no wear and tear unless it is broken, burned, or quenched. Other cosmetic damages that can be repaired include paint, coils, and pad replacements.
Make sure your equipment has a good warranty or service contract, and be sure you know when it expires. If your system does not come with warranty, be certain your vendors are reputable and knowledgeable so that they can direct you to qualified engineers when you experience problems with the machine.
Call us anytime for tips on maintaining your MRI equipment.
MRI & CT Specialist