The world’s most state-of-the-art MRI scanner has arrived in the UK as part of a £3m drive to revolutionise cardiac care.
Two machines – a ‘Siemens Aera’ and a ‘Siemens Prisma’ – have been lifted-in to the new Chenies Mews Imaging Centre in Bloomsbury, Central London.
Paid for by Queen Square Enterprises, owned by the charitable arm of the University College London Hospitals Trust, the venture will benefit both NHS and private patients.
According to experts, the 3 Tesla Prisma machine is a “world first”, and should be operational in May.
The already-powerful magnet will be ‘turbo-charged’ with additional software from manufacturer Siemens in order to boost processing power.
Radiographers, cardiologists and radiologists will be able to produce specialist scans, which should lead to earlier diagnosis and save thousands of lives – particularly those of patients with heart conditions.
Peter Sutton, manager for marketing and new business development at QSE, said: “The new scanners mean that we will be at the cutting edge of technology, not just now, but for the next 20 years.
“With access to such detailed imaging we can achieve new methods of quantifying disease and, crucially, the process is made much quicker.
“That’s going to be vital for cardiac patients.
“Thanks to the high quality imaging we can now produce, a patient can see a specialist in the morning, have an MRI scan, and then by the afternoon an experienced cardiologist can report back to them with a personalised treatment plan.
“It means patients are free to commence treatment immediately and without delay, which could make a real difference to their ultimate prognosis.”
It is hoped the two new scanners will be able to process around 6,000 patients per year.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) harnesses the power of magnetic fields to obtain high quality images of the body, particularly soft tissues and vital organs like the heart and brain.
A ‘Tesla’ is the unit of measurement quantifying the strength of a magnetic field.
Prior to the 3 Tesla Machine, the high-field standard was 1.5 Tesla. The increased image clarity of a 3T machine allows for high-quality vascular and heart imaging.
Patients with cardiac pacemakers and other implantable devices will also benefit greatly.
Sutton added: “Unlike other MRI scanners, we can scan patients with pacemakers or other implantable cardiac devices safely.
“An increasing number of the population, particularly those in their 50s and 60s, now have cardiac devices such as pacemakers, and many of these patients will need an MRI at some point in their lives.
“These devices have always been difficult to scan safely due to the negative affect on the device from the strong magnetic fields we work with.
“Historically, if you have a patient with a back problem, or who needs a brain scan, or even if you need a knee MRI, you couldn’t have one if you had a pacemaker.
“That all changes with the scanners at Chenies Mews.
“Our expertise and the clinical specialists we collaborate with means we can overcome these barriers.
“In a new a unique service, we will be running regular scanning lists for these patients so that they can access the exact type of imaging they need.”
QSE will be working in collaboration with a new research group from University College London, who will occupy the same Chenies Mews building, as well as staff from Barts Heart Centre (BHC), located in West Smithfield.
Dr James Moon, Professor of cardiology at University College London and also clinical director of imaging at the Barts Heart Centre, described the scanners as a “world first”.
He added: “We won’t just be taking normal scanned images, we’re taking images and then reconstructing them on vast computers to get the advantage of massive processing power.
“We can achieve new methods of quantifying disease and we can make it easier for patients.
“It’s a really big deal, and it’s going to be great.”