Open Vs Closed MRI Machines – Which Ones Provide Higher Quality Images?

The the past Open MRI machines made it challenging for physicians to decide between patient comfort and image quality. Today with advancements in other MRI systems, “Open MRI” means the patient is often not being told about the limitations of open systems. Too often it’s a degree of marketing spin where the patient is not told the alternatives and difference in quality exists.

The power of the magnet matters!

Open MRI sounds more comfortable and freeing. However due to their open structure the images are significantly degraded in terms of visible details, they are lower quality. Lower quality images can lead to misdiagnosis or the wrong treatment. Open scanners usually have a magnetic field strength of 0.23 Tesla and offer much less detail for the radiologist to interpret.

When using closed (High field) MRI machines. Scanners with high field strength, 1.5 to 3 Tesla provides images with much greater detail, higher resolution with great clarity. It is easy to read and interpret scans from high field MRI machines. It’s even possible to see things the individual pinched nerve fibers.

Modern high field MRI machines provide images with incredible detail. They are also more comfortable than the high field machines that were used in the past.

The key advantages of High Field MRI scanners:

  1. Their high field strength makes them more powerful.
  2. Images can be acquired much faster. To be precise, the images can be obtained 1.5 to 2 times faster than the speed at which images can be obtained when using open MRI machines.
  3. Because of the shorter scanning time, there is less patient motion during the scanning process. This makes images clearer and more accurate
  4. Modern MRI machines are capable of providing more detailed images of small areas of interests of interest. This is because of the stronger magnetic field created by the high field scanners.
  5. Modern MRI machines give doctors access to more advanced imaging techniques that are not available when using open scanners.
  6. High field scanners provide a more precise diagnosis.

In the past, the use of open MRI machines were on the increase because there has been misconception that closed scanners are more claustrophobic to patients. However, new scanners have been designed with the comfort of the patients in mind. They have shorter tubes (or bores) open on both ends to reduce anxiety in patients. They are also wider than the older scanners to prevent the feeling of being closed in. Today’s closed scanners have been designed with superior lighting and ventilation systems. More light and air movement when scanning is being done helps to increase patients’ comfort significantly.

Open MRI machines may seem great to patients who are uncomfortable being in a closed environment during scanning. However, they provide lower quality images compared to the images that are provided by 3T (3-Tesla) MRI machines. This is because of their design and low power magnets. The images obtained from open MRI machines are blurred and lightly focused. Such images can easily lead to a wrong diagnosis.

When given a choice, would you like your doctor to make critical decisions with a lower quality image or from an image with clear details?

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