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With the advancement of medical imaging technologies, "scanners" now carry much of the diagnostic load of modern hospitals. Where exploratory surgeries may have been the best option in the past, today's doctor usually gets a better view of a patient using a non-invasive scan than they could using a scalpel. Even scanning technology isn't perfect, however. Some scans require long periods of time during which the patient is asked to contort themselves into uncomfortable positions, stay still and hold their breath for as long as 60 seconds or more. All of that is hard to do on a good day, let alone when you are sick, injured or both.

With the installation of the new Siemens 3-T MRI Imaging System with Total Imaging Matrix (TIM), East Jefferson General Hospital now operates the most powerful imaging device in the region. At eight times the speed of open or stand-up MRI, 3-T represents a remarkable breakthrough in imaging technology. The speed and power of the 3-T translates into better experiences for all concerned, says Dr. Susan Fuzzard of East Jefferson's radiology department.

"Some patients simply can't hold their breath for very long," Fuzzard says. "Because of the speed at which this scanner captures images, the physician gets better images and the patient can spend considerably less time in discomfort."

The 3-T previously was available only in research centers, Fuzzard says, and East Jefferson is the first hospital in this region -- and the first public hospital in the Deep South -- to install this technology. In addition to faster scans of particular areas of the brain, spine and torso, 3-T allows greater flexibility in scanning previously hard-to-capture and complex zones such as the feet and hands.

Representatives of Siemens have compared 3-T's advantage over older technologies to that of a high-speed camera over a common disposable camera. "While a disposable camera may capture a picture of a hummingbird outside your window, the high-speed camera captures that image with each individual wing frozen in time and space" a company spokesman says. "In clinical tests, the added clarity of these new 3-T images translates into better and faster diagnosis than before."

Though thrilled with the application possibilities 3-Ts present, Fuzzard is quick to point out that not every patient needs a 3-T scan. "There are many patients for whom a more traditional MRI will still be appropriate," she says. "This technology was not brought here to replace other excellent technologies but instead to give our patients and physicians one more opportunity to make the best, fastest diagnosis or assessment possible."

Installing a magnet eight times as powerful as any previously used in medical applications is a fairly complex and intricate procedure. The installation of East Jefferson's 3-T took place over a three-week period in October and technicians immediately began using it to scan patients. Since then it has lived up to all its advanced promises, says Dr. Mary Lobrano, East Jefferson's director of radiology. "It only enhances our position as the leading center of this region in terms of diagnostic technologies and capabilities."

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