Don’t Gamble: 6 Things You Need to Know When Budgeting Your MRI Installation

So you’ve decided to upgrade your MRI equipment. Before you start narrowing down the specifications for your new MRI machine, make sure you understand how your new equipment will affect both long- and short-term costs.With MR scanners costing six and sometimes seven figures, they’re a huge investment for a healthcare facility. In addition to the scanner itself, there are other associated expenses—including the cost of shielding for magnetic field containment and radio frequency (RF) interference.

Bottom line: the best time to determine whether to refurbish or replace your MRI shield is after you have reviewed the baseline test results.

Below are 6 critical elements you should understand so you make the most educated decisions to save time, cost, mitigate risk and help justify your MRI installation recommendation.

  1. Determine RF performance of your current MRI

An RF baseline test should be performed by a qualified MRI shielding vendor.  This is necessary because the provider of the new equipment will expect the user to certify that the MRI shield meets RF required performance for the upgraded MRI magnet.  The baseline test will establish this RF performance and identify whether the shield meets these criteria.

  1. My existing MRI initially tested “acceptable” and I don’t have RF-related artifacts. Do I still need a baseline test?

There are several reasons why the MRI RF baseline test is necessary:

  • Many (if not most) of the previous generation MRI machines had stiff RF shielding performance requirements – even prior to installation of MRI equipment peripherals and cabling. Once peripherals and cabling were installed, it was expected overall RF performance would diminish, but not compromise imaging quality.Current generation MRI equipment is much more sensitive to RF interference. In fact, many MRI vendors are focused on improving peripheral MR attachments to meet current RF performance requirements.Older MRI system performance was much more forgiving. Today’s MRI magnets require stringent RF performance to work optimally.
  • Depending on the current MRI shield design, many RF shields will naturally degrade over time due to:
  • RF panel seal breakdown
  • Framing seams
  • Door usage
  • Window integrity
  • Movement in shield structure due to magnet vibration
  • Water damage
  • Excessive air supply/return imbalance causing movement with door closure or opening
  • Breakdown of electrical filters, sprinkler, and med gas connections
  • Addition of new equipment/devices that do not utilize proper RF filtering and RF Waveguides
  1. Does the baseline RF shielding test identify all existing RF compromises?

This will depend on the condition of existing shield and time allowed for testing. Testing often runs 3-4 hours and can be performed while the magnet remains in the field.

  • It may be necessary to remove interior finishes to determine the cause of initially unidentified weaknesses. This is usually indicated by unexpected test results and can be exacerbated by inadequate testing time.
  • Importantly, large RF compromises and/or multiple RF compromises could mask other weaknesses. This may require corrections and additional troubleshooting to ensure all compromises are identified after interior finishes are removed.
  • The process of removing interior finishes will likely require an additional appointment for troubleshooting. It also could require a second troubleshooting service call or may be incorporated into the upgrade phase.
  1. Will the upgrade require recertification of the existing shield’s ground isolation? Why is this relevant?
  • With a new RF shield installation, the shield vendor will need to recertify ground isolation. This recertification is a requirement determined by the new MRI equipment vendor.
  • MRI noise ground isolation is relevant because it is the only way to recertify RF isolation. This requires all electrical circuits, med-gas connections, all wet sprinkler systems connections and possibly HVAC and quench lines be disconnected.If these disconnections do not meet MRI sound isolation criteria, additional (and more expensive) efforts may be needed. The additional cost is related to the need for enlisting other trades to troubleshoot and refinish the MRI suite.
  1. How do we estimate costs to refurbish an existing shield?

At the most basic level: Pricing for the MRI acceptance baseline test can be provided by all shielding vendors. Planned upgrade expenses typically include:

  • Opening of the shield
  • Modification to the penetration panels for new MRI equipment
  • Possible quench relocation
  • Floor modification for magnet mounting platform

However, depending on the need for a deeper investigation, costs (for unplanned troubleshooting only) can range from $3,500 to $45,000 and potentially add delays of about 2-3 weeks. The following may affect total cost:

  • Troubleshooting efforts
  • Unanticipated component replacement (door, window, electrical filters, quench)
  • Expenses for removal of finishes to assist the troubleshooting and the cost to replace those finishes
  • Unplanned downtime or time extension during the modification upgrade process

Since extended MRI upgrade time can be a significant issue for healthcare facilities, it is important to carefully plan optimal timing for delivery of the upgraded MRI equipment and have a plan for interim MRI resources.

  1. When should a replacement shield be considered vs. refurbishing the existing shield?

For most sites today, the price for a new MRI shield (without factoring in magnetic shielding) runs about $40,000 to $50,000. Higher costs are possible depending on valuable features that are available today.

New shields have many benefits including a new full warranty package – depending on the shield vendor coverage can range from 1-5 years to a lifetime.

On the other hand, refurbished MRI shields carry very limited warranties – and may only cover new replacement components.

Keep in mind, a replacement MRI shield significantly adds to the construction budget. New MRI shielding installation requires additional demo and full MEP replacement and finishes. In most cases, it will also extend the construction timeline.

Pricing is usually provided on a “time and materials basis.” Your MRI shielding company should provide an assessment and estimate that includes:

  • A determination of the probability that the existing MRI shield will meet required RF performance criteria
  • Steps to ensure MRI performance acceptability

Bottom Line: Older shield upgrades require more work and expense than one would think. Each MRI suite is a unique environment. The truth is refurbished RF shields require in-depth assessment. Therefore, refurbished MR shields often require extended troubleshooting and reconstruction time.

As a division of the largest dedicated Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) shielding company in the world, IMEDCO America has an established reputation for delivering MRI (RF) shielding packages optimized for each individual environment.

We start by understanding the needs of the end-user then we leverage our in-depth product knowledge to educate users on optional features and the benefits of these features. Then we work with the architectural and construction teams to ensure seamless design and construction plans.

Our experienced, knowledgeable consultants differentiate IMEDCO from other MRI shielding companies. Contact us today and we’ll help you determine which is best for your business: refurbished MRI shielding or replacing MRI shielding.