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High Definition vs. Open

How to decide what's best for you...

With all the "open" or low field scanners being introduced and advertised, sometimes it's difficult for a patient to choose between an open MRI and a High Field MRI. The following is intended to provide patients with additional information to help them better understand the differences.

  • Open scanners produce lower quality of images and some exams will need to be repeated on a closed or high field scanner to accurately diagnosis the problem. Higher field strength scanners with a 1 - 1.5 Tesla (measurement of magnetic force) provide high resolutions that are clearer, easier to read scans. Open scanners usually have about a .23 Tesla. The higher the field strength, the more powerful and faster the scanner. As the field strength increases, the signal or ability to receive body images from the patient increases and results in a better quality image.
  • MRI scanners scan the body in slices. On a high field or closed MRI system, the slice can be thinner, improving the image the physician uses to diagnose the problem.
  • High field MRI systems take less time due to the higher magnetic field strength. High field scans can be one and a half to two times faster than an "open" scan. As the scan time lengthens, the patient is more prone to movement, which reduces image quality.
  • High field scanners provide the most advanced imaging techniques, some of which cannot be performed on an "open" scanner.
  • High field scanners are currently designed to increase patient comfort as well as reduce the anxiety that may occur with MRI patients. The newer scanners are designed with a substantially shorter bore or tube than the older scanners. This allows for the patient's head to be outside the bore of the magnet for a number of scans. The bore of the magnet is flared at the ends, so if a patient needs to be inside the scanner, the "closed in" feeling is reduced because the patient's head is towards a flared end. In addition, the bore has a larger width than that of the older scanners, which provides more room around the patient while inside the scanner.

"Open," low field scanners may be more appropriate for some patients, such as true claustrophobics, those with a larger body or who have conditions that may result in painful positioning and those involved in movement studies. The patient should be made aware of the differences in quality and time and the potential that an additional scan might be required.