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Delicate Operation to Install MRI Magnet on Wednes

Delicate Operation to Install MRI Magnet on Wednesday

A five-tonne magnet will be carefully and delicately lifted into position at Gisborne Hospital today.

The magnet is the central component of the Magnet Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine being installed in Gisborne Hospital’s nearly completed High Tech Imaging Suite.

Installation of the magnet is a precise and calculated process, says Gisborne Hospital’s Building and Engineering Manager Geoff Blackman.

“Unfortunately the magnet is too tall to slide through the corridor so we have to take it over the top. The magnet can’t be knocked or bumped and it certainly can’t be dropped because of the sensitive and intricate components inside.” Worth around $1 million, the magnet was made by Philips Medical Systems, in Europe. It was flown to New Zealand on a commercial freight aircraft and is being trucked to Gisborne from Auckland on Tuesday.

Philips Medical Systems New Zealand Account Manager Bernie Power said manufacture and installation of the MRI had to be accurately timed to coincide with related developments.

A concrete path leading from the corridor to the High Tech Imaging Suite had to be laid so the magnet could be rolled along it and into the suite. The path had to be strong enough to hold the five-tonne weight of the magnet.

The faraday cage or protective copper shell which prevents radio frequency noise interfering with the magnet had to be partially built. Three out of the four walls have been constructed allowing the magnet to be placed inside. The fourth wall will be constructed immediately after.

And the power supply feeding into the Imaging Suite had to be at a sufficient capacity to ensure chillers could maintain the magnet’s liquid helium at close to absolute zero temperatures. (-273 degree’s Celsius) The liquid helium allows the coil windings inside the magnet to become superconducting. “As you can see it is a matter of timing everything to the last minute in preparation for Wednesday’s installation,” Mr Power said.

Local crane hire company CR Taylor has been contracted by Phillips to carry out the delicate lifting.

Once the magnet is in place, the final portions of the faraday cage will be constructed, and the Imaging Suite completed.

In January Philips will install the intricate system of computers and associated equipment required to operate the MRI.

“Installing these remaining components will take at least two weeks,” Mr Power said. A stringent calibration and testing period will follow.

The High Tech Imaging Suite will be opened in an official ceremony and MRI scans are expected to be available from mid-February 2005.

Background Information

An MRI machine is a complex piece of equipment that takes a special sort of photo of everything inside the body.

More than just bones, more than just organs, the MRI can produce images of everything from solids, to tissue, to fluid.

It’s the closest you can get to obtaining a slice by slice view of a body without having to cut into it.

The potential diagnostic ability of an MRI is almost endless whether it be for conditions related to the heart, brain, blood vessels or spine.

By having the machine in Gisborne, it can make having a scan far less stressful and or emotional.

The MRI machine and it’s installation is expected to cost Tairawhiti District Health (TDH) around $1.8 million.

Currently, around 300 MRI scans on Tairawhiti people are done outside the district each year.

TDH, with an enormous amount of financial support from the James Cook Charitable Trust, will lease the MRI off MRI machine supplier, Philips Medical Systems Australasia, based in New Zealand.

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