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The Tidelands Health Newsroom

Published on September 04, 2012

GHS 3T MRI provides a new way of looking at things 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Georgetown, S.C.  -- Area physicians have a new way of looking at things, thanks to a Georgetown Hospital System high-tech scanner that provides unparalleled images of the body.

The scanner, a 3-Tesla MRI, is in use at the Waccamaw Medical Park-West on the grounds of Waccamaw Community Hospital. Known as the 3T, the scanner is the only one of its kind in the region and provides unparalleled images of the brain, tissue, joints and heart.

Dr. Carter Brown, a radiologist with GHS’ Imaging Center, said the 3T has enormous benefits for patients and physicians.

“The 3T gives doctors more precise images so they can observe the subtle differences and make a diagnosis more quickly and with greater confidence. In lay terms, it’s like the difference between standard TV and high-def TV. The higher the resolution --- the greater the subtleties.”

For patients, the 3T, called “open bore” because it is larger and shorter, means shorter scan time and earlier diagnosis of conditions. With a 70-centimeter diameter, the 3T is 10 centimeters larger than standard MRI machines, and its shorter length means that less of a patient’s body is actually in the scanner during the MRI procedure.

“The size and the openness of the open bore 3T are definitely a plus for people who are uncomfortable in small spaces,” Brown said. “And because the 3T is so precise and can image microstructures, doctors can observe and treat patients at earlier stages of an illness and detect an injury that can be fixed before it becomes more serious,” Brown said.

The large, tube-shaped 3T, one of only seven in South Carolina, is the most powerful imaging machine available for clinical use in health care and is twice as strong as the standard MRI, the 1.5 Tesla. It also is about 4 times stronger than true open MRI scanners, Brown said. Tesla is the unit of measurement that quantifies the strength of a magnetic field.

Originally used for research, the 3T is particularly useful for scans of the musculoskeletal system, including the ankle and wrist, as well as the spine and the brain, Brown said. However, the strong magnet precludes the use of MRI on patients with pacemakers that cannot be turned off, or who have certain prosthetic devices and other types of iron-based metal implants. Brown said many joint replacements and devices implanted within the last 10 years are MRI-compatible, but patients are evaluated carefully on a case-by-case basis.

MRI works by creating a strong magnetic field around the body. That field, along with a radiofrequency, realigns the hydrogen atoms in the body. Computers are then used to create a two-dimensional image of an organ or body structure based on the activity of the hydrogen atoms.

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Tidelands Health is the largest health care provider in Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties. With three hospitals and more than 50 outpatient locations that stretch from Andrews to North Myrtle Beach, Tidelands Health is helping people across the Tidelands region live better lives through better health.