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Technicians Tim Johnson and Shawn Hynes are pictured from left, alongside Melissa Memorial Hospital’s new MRI machine. The machine is housed in a specialized trailer on the hospital’s north side, although a permanent dedicated space within the hospital is planned. — The Holyoke Enterprise | Johnson Publications

New MRI machine open for business

    Melissa Memorial Hospital has finally rolled out its new MRI machine and is now accepting clients for the state-of-the-art, noninvasive imaging service.
    The machine, which went live Feb. 28, is available from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays and is housed in a specialized trailer on the north side of the hospital. The trailer includes a lift for wheelchair-bound patients.
    MMH public affairs specialist Elizabeth Hutches said the hospital first considered buying a machine when the traveling MRI service that they had used for the past 15 years announced that they would be shutting down in December 2018.
    She noted that the machine sets MMH apart from other rural hospitals and that the hospital hopes to attract business from other local facilities that were affected by the end of the traveling service.
    “Having an on-site machine is a benefit that isn’t common in these areas,” Hutches said. “With the traveling machine stoppage, we thought we could also provide it to other hospitals.”
    MMH CEO Trampas Hutches also said that the machine will help to level the playing field between MMH and specialty care facilities in other parts of the state.
    “We are excited to offer our patients both the comfort of their community hospital and the diagnostic imaging found on the Front Range,” he said.
    Magnetic resonance imaging technology uses powerful magnets and radio waves to picture the inside of the body.
    The machine itself consists of a cylindrical, magnetized chamber and a table that can be moved in and out of the chamber mechanically.
    Doctors can diagnose problems with bones, organs and other tissues using the high-definition images obtained from the machine.
    Technicians Tim Johnson of Holyoke and Shawn Hynes of North Platte, Nebraska, are responsible for operating MMH’s machine. Hynes was formerly involved with the operation of the traveling machine and is now helping to train Johnson.
    Johnson said the machine and the accompanying software is as cutting-edge as the equipment used by trauma centers in major cities like Denver.
    “This is the exact same stuff that they have over there,” he said.
    Technically speaking, Johnson said, the GE Healthcare machine can generate a magnetic field equal to 1.5 teslas — about 150 times the strength of the average refrigerator magnet.
    Because of the strength of the magnet inside the machine, patients with certain pieces of metal embedded in their bodies — including shrapnel and pacemakers — can’t undergo the scan. The majority of metal joint prostheses will not interfere with the scan.
    MRIs use no radiation, unlike other imaging techniques, and rely entirely on magnets and radio waves to produce their images.

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