New MRI Machine Delivered to Novato Community Hospital

Here's to hoping you never see the inside of this high-tech tube.

Have you experienced the sensory overload of an MRI? It's truly strange being in one of those tubes as the machine captures images of the inside of your body. And that noise ... they like a German industrial techno punk band from my college days.

It was time for an MRI upgrade at Novato Community Hospital, so a massive crane plucked a 6,881-pound magnetic resonance imaging machine off a flatbed tractor trailer Monday morning and workers moved the bulky mass inside to start wiring it up. All told, the pricetag will be about $2.5 million.

Building maintenance workers had to remove a doorway to allow for the machine to squeeze through the doorway and down a hallway to its new home.

The Siemens Magnetom Aera MRI won't be ready for business until about mid-January, according to hospital spokeswoman Mary Strebig. Once it's up and running, patients will find that it is roomier — meaning it can accommodate bodies up to 550 pounds — and that more scans can be done without sticking the patient's head inside the contraption. That means less anxiety and less need for sedation.

Dr. Ralph Koenker, the hospital's chief of staff and director of radiology services, said the new MRI is equipped with the most advanced type of receivers called Total Image Matrix. Compared to the replaced MRI, the image clarity and scan capability are greatly improved, the magnetic field is 50 percent more powerful and the computers running the scanner are 20 times faster, he said.

"This arrangement allows technologists to quickly obtain scans of neck blood vessels, the cervical spine and the brain, all in a rapid sequence without having to continuously shift and physically adjust devices around the patient," he said. "The result of these fourth-generation receiving coils provides for faster, more comfortable exams for our patients."

MRIs use radio waves and magnets to create photos of the inside of a person's body, making it much easier for doctors to diagnose injuries and ailments. 

A second MRI unit will remain operational in a trailer just behind the hospital.

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