UAMS Among First in U.S. to Install Powerful 3.0 MRI

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is the first in the state to install a new 3.0 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) unit, a powerful imaging device that will improve patient care and research capabilities.


UAMS Medical Center is among the first hospitals in the United States to install the 3.0 MRI, which can produce higher quality images faster than the 1.5 Tesla MRI that is commonly used.


The new MRI is part of more than $18 million in upgrades to medical imaging resources now in operation at UAMS, including the state’s first Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography scanners (PET/CT) facility and a medical cyclotron that provides isotopes for PET scanning. In addition, new angiography equipment was recently installed.


Imaging equipment guides more effective treatments for thousands of patients each month at UAMS, giving physicians the information to target cancer treatments, track development of a tumor or pinpoint orthopedic injuries.


“As radiology and imaging technology continues to advance, UAMS is committed to making available the tools to best care for our patients, educate our students and provide for cutting-edge research,” said Ernest J. Ferris, M.D., chairman of the Department of Radiology in the UAMS College of Medicine. “From the 3.0 MRI to the PET facility, we are not only improving patient care but also lowering medical costs by increased efficiency as well as providing a vital research platform.”


UAMS now has four MRI units that are used for more than 2,400 exams monthly, providing physicians with detailed images of body structures from radiofrequency waves produced by a magnet and used for diagnosing and guiding treatment for disease and injury. The 28,000-pound MRI unit was installed earlier this month and is now being used for patient care and research.


Earlier this year, UAMS opened its $15 million PET facility, which features two PET/CT scanners – including the state’s first PET/CT hybrid fusion imaging scanner – and the state’s first medical cyclotron. The cyclotron provides radioisotopes necessary for PET scanning so Arkansas physicians and hospitals can avoid going out of state to buy those isotopes.


In PET scanning, patients receive a dose of a radioisotope containing substances that mimic those in the body such as water, sugar, proteins and oxygen. The radioisotopes accumulate in diseased cells differently than in healthy cells, so the PET scanner creates an image that can be used to locate and determine the extent of a disease and track its development.


The radioisotopes used in PET scanning have short half-lives, which means they have a limited time before their radioactivity decays to the point they can no longer be used (some as short as two minutes). With the on-site cyclotron, UAMS will be able to produce isotopes for use in its PET Center as well as for other PET facilities around the state that partnered with UAMS on the project, including the Baptist Health system, St. Bernard’s Healthcare in Jonesboro, St. Joseph’s PET Center in Hot Springs and Radiology Consultants in Little Rock.


The hybrid PET/CT technology combines two powerful imaging technologies, PET and Computed Tomography (CT, or CAT-scan), into one scanner that provides doctors with unique information for assessing cancer sites, heart disease and neurology disorders. While PET shows changes in a patient’s cells and assists doctors in seeing variations in the body’s metabolism even before those changes are seen in the anatomy, CT scanning shows detailed images of the body’s anatomy and internal structures.


UAMS is upgrading its angiography resources by replacing equipment in both of its angiography suites, which see about 750 patients monthly. The newer technology will allow the radiologist to provide more detailed angiographic and related images for physicians.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.3 billion a year.


UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.