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GE Healthcare Silent Scan tech makes MRI scans less noisy

By Damir Beciri
10 January 2013

rsna2012-optima-mr360-advanceEach year in Chicago, the conference of the Radiological Association of North America (RSNA) provides a forum for showcasing the latest innovations in medical imaging. General Electric Healthcare (GE Healthcare) department introduced Silent Scan – a technology designed to address excessive acoustic noise generated during an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, thus improving patient experience.

Back in 2011, GE Healthcare started Humanizing MR – a mission to optimize the MRI patient experience while continuing to improve the image quality. GE Healthcare believes this focus on patient-centric design will help improve diagnostic confidence, patient outcomes, and productivity.

Conventional MRI scanners can generate noise in excess of 110dB levels, which is a roughly equivalent of being a meter (3 feet) away from a power saw or being at a loud rock concert. Duration of MRI examinations can vary from 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, and that amount of exposure to noise requires usage of ear plugs or external ear muffs.

GE’s Silent Scan technology is designed to reduce MRI scanner noise to near ambient (background) sound levels, thus relieving patients from discomfort and improving their MRI exam experience. According to information from a GE Healthcare representative at RSNA, the technique is limited to T1 and PD-weighted scans at 1.5 Tesla, but they are developing ways to enable the use of Silent Scan technology with other types of sequences and 3 Tesla systems.

“Silent Scan is a huge breakthrough for the MRI industry and for patients around the world”, said Richard Hausmann, president and CEO, GE Healthcare MR. “Excessive acoustic noise is a major cause of patient discomfort during MRI scans and GE is addressing that with Silent Scan, a new MR advanced application and a major innovation in the healthcare industry. GE is very serious about Humanizing MRI and making its MR systems patient-friendly, safe, and without compromise.”

So far, there have been attempts to reduce the generated noise by focusing on insulating components and muffling sound as opposed to treating the noise at the source. Silent Scan technology employs a new advanced 3D acquisition and reconstruction technique called Silenz, in combination with GE Healthcare’s proprietary design of the high-fidelity MRI gradient and RF system electronics, to basically remove most of the acoustic noise.

Although it could significantly increase patient comfort, the technology is under 510(k) pending and it might be years before it’ll be implemented into new MRI scanners. If it becomes FDA approved, GE Healthcare Silent Scan technology could significantly improve patients experience by introducing a more relaxing scanning environment – an important part of patient recovery and ell being. Lower noise levels would also be far more acceptable and less damaging for children which have to undergo MRI scans.

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