Local News

7/31/2013

Camden hospital pays for MRI upgrade

By GORDON JACKSON The Brunswick News

ST. MARYS -- Doctors in neighboring counties may soon be sending patients to the hospital in St. Marys for MRI exams.

Southeast Georgia Health System spent nearly $2 million to purchase a new MRI scanner that is described as the most advanced imaging system in the region.

Timothy Bryant, manager of radiology and cardiopulmonary services at the St. Marys hospital, said the decision to upgrade was "physician driven."

"There were a lot of MRI studies we couldn't do here," he said.

The diameter of the new scanner is about one-third larger than normal, which makes procedures more comfortable for patients.

"Every exam can be done feet first," Bryant said. "The larger opening not only allows scans of larger patients, but is less confining to patients who do not like smaller spaces."

Some patients in a conventional head-first scanner get claustrophobic and are unable to complete the procedure. They shouldn't have a problem with the new machine, he said.

Procedures on the new scanner take about one-third less time and the quality of images taken is as good as any available technology, Bryant said.

A room had to be renovated at the St. Marys hospital before the new MRI scanner could be set up. Bryant said the new room's floor, ceiling and walls had to be lined with copper to prevent the strong magnetic pulses from escaping.

Bryant said the magnetic current is not harmful to humans but it is powerful enough to interfere with electronic medical devices such as pacemakers and defibrillator implants, as well as wipe out information on a credit card's magnetic strip and eliminate the memory on a cell phone.

The hospital's MRI technicians have already spent about two weeks in training to learn how to operate the new machine, which went online last week. Bryant said staff will continue to train as new procedures are offered.

With the addition of more specialty physicians in Camden County, such as orthopedics, oncology, pain management, and neurology, the need for enhanced MRI capabilities has greatly increased, hospital officials said.

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 464-7655.