A new kind of MRI is giving local doctors a clearer idea of what’s wrong with some of their patients.
The 3T MRI provides better resolution and clarity than older MRIs, said Dr. John Ellis, a New Hartford radiologist and director of musculoskeletal radiology at Cooperative Magnetic Imaging in the Utica Business Park, where the new MRI is located. The "3T" name refers to 3 Teslas, a measurement of the magnetic field. The magnets in most MRIs only have 1.5 Teslas, Ellis said.
“I’ve been working here for more than 20 years. This is the biggest change in technology that I’ve been able to experience. This is just blowing me away,” he said.
Not all patients need those clearer images, but they can be helpful for some cancer, neurology and orthopedic patients, Ellis said. He can use the images during brain tumor surgery, for example, to “tell them very, very precisely what to remove,” he said.
The clarity of the 3T MRI scans comes from three things, Ellis said: better resolution from stronger magnets; a faster scan time so that patients move less; and better software. Scans on other MRIs tend to take 45 to 60 minutes, but with the 3T MRI, he’s working on getting most patients out in 15 to 20 minutes, he said.
The scans can help with some diagnoses and can, for some types of cancer, show whether treatment is proving effective, he said.
Recently, for example, he used a scan to help a surgeon determine which of thousands of cysts on a patient’s kidneys was infected.
“I feel like every day I’m finding and doing new things,” Ellis said.
Dr. Kenneth Ortega, of Mohawk Valley Orthopedics, agreed that the 3T MRI can make a big difference for some of his patients. It’s helpful for soft tissue injuries in the knee and shoulder, although for some injuries, X-rays still work fine and cost less, he said.
But as with any new technology, there are limits. No test, no matter how clear, will prove helpful without good radiologists reading it, Ellis said. And orthopedic patients still need a clinical exam by an orthopedic surgeon, he said.
Still, “we’re very excited about this," Eliis said. "It’s nice we could offer this to the community locally."
Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).