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Intermountain debuts more comfortable MRI

Published August 13, 2014 5:27 pm

Medicine • Wider tube, customizable room features help patients relax for clearer scans.
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Julie Winkler relaxed in a room with glowing blue walls, soothing music and a slide show of aquarium-themed photos on Wednesday. She wasn't in a spa or watching a movie — she was getting an MRI.

A new magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, machine at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray has a wider diameter tube and can scan people who weigh up to 500 pounds, instead of the typical 350-pound limit.

The new MRI suite allows patients to change the colors of the walls, play music and watch a movie or a slide show of photos.

"What's wonderful about this machine and this caring suite is that it allows us to make the patient more comfortable," MRI technician Mike Oveson said at a press conference Wednesday. "Typically patients are very claustrophobic. They are anxious. They get intimidated by the machine."

Reducing a patient's stress is important, Oveson said.

"If a patient isn't comfortable inside the machine, they move a lot more," Oveson said. "Images do not come out as nice as they need to. Diagnoses could be missed and could set back their treatment or care."

MRIs use a magnetic field to create images of organs and other structures inside the body. The large, tube-shaped devices do not emit radiation, which is used in X-rays and computerized tomography, or CT scans.

Winkler said she was anxious going in, but was immediately calmed by the blue walls, music and aquarium scenes, one of several available slide shows.

"I was watching turtles and fish and the sea," she said. "The music was very soothing, the lights in the room, the colors — it made me so relaxed. I almost fell asleep in there."

Patients can also bring in smart devices and play their own music, movie or slide show of photos.

The machine is an upgrade from typical MRI devices because "we can scan faster, we can make the machine quieter, we can use motion control imaging which helps with patients who are severely claustrophobic," Oveson said.

The machine cost the hospital $1.5 million plus an extra $160,000 for the amenities. For patients, insurance will cover the cost at the same level as other MRI devices.

The suite is the second in the state. The first is in the Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George.

Oveson said he expects these special rooms are the future of MRIs. Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City is planning a similar MRI suite with kid-friendly themes, he said.