Why the healthcare industry is giving Zero Boil-Off MRI Scanners a closer look

Blue Star E&E has been responding to customer requests for MRI scanners for several years now, and we understand what healthcare facilities and specialists look for in the equipment. Great image quality, reduced operating costs, and patient comfort are almost always on top of the list.

And those really, are the three reasons why Zero Boil Off MRI scanners have now come into the picture and become a point of discussion at facilities the world over.

Neurologists rely heavily on the accuracy of MRI scans to diagnose and treat patients. A bad scan can result in unnecessary inconvenience to both doctor and the patient. The right MRI scanners, like say, the zero boil-off scanners, provide doctors with more precise images, allowing for more accurate diagnoses. Ultimately, that translates to improved patient outcomes. And a happy patient makes for the best testimonial for a hospital.

So, what are Zero Boil-Off scanners?

Zero Boil-off MRI scanners use superconducting magnets to produce images of the body. Conventional MRI scanners rely on liquid helium to cool the magnet (an MRI needs 2,000 litres of ultra-cold liquid helium to function). Zero boil-off scanners also use helium, but far, far less of it.

In zero boil-off scanners, liquid helium is used, and as it boils off, the gas goes into a condenser which converts gaseous helium back to liquid, to be circulated back into the MRI unit. This cuts down the need for additional liquid helium. So, while it does not eliminate helium consumption, it certainly reduces it. The amount of liquid helium needed is minimised which automatically leads to reduced maintenance and operating costs as well as a longer scanner lifespan

However, these MRI scanners are also more expensive than traditional MRI scanners due to the advanced technology and materials required to create them. So hospitals need to consult with experts in the medical equipment industry to understand the cost-benefit ratio. Larger hospitals, for instance, will likely benefit from the switch.

What is the cost exactly?

A standard MRI unit needs refilling annually, while a zero boil-off unit uses much less and needs refilling only every 3 to 4 years, so it may prove to be cost-effective in the long run based on your usage.

There is another point to consider as well – sustainability. Helium is a non-renewable element found in the Earth’s crust. Liquid helium is the coldest element on Earth and is invaluable in an MRI scanner. But helium resources are being depleted, leaving hospitals wondering how to plan for the scarcer supply.

In an interview with NBC, Mahadevappa Mahesh, professor of radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Baltimore, says helium has become a “big concern” at hospitals. The report also talks of the costs of helium rising, with some experts predicting a rise of up to 30%.

In the end, conventional versus zero boil-off is really all about cost versus sustainability. Cost versus maintenance. Cost versus patient comfort.

If you need help coming to a decision regarding what type of MRI scanner will suit your healthcare facility’s requirements, do consult the engineers at Blue Star E&E.

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