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Common MRI Scanner Issues and How to Fix Them

MRI machines have transformed the way we give and receive medical care. Thanks to this invention, we’ve been able to explore the human body to an unprecedented level. However, these machines come with a hefty price tag, so it’s necessary to make sure that they are well-functioning at all times. So, what can you do when you face sudden issues? Here’s a quick guide. 

Low Helium Levels

One quite terrifying situation you may face while operating an MRI machine is getting a flashing alert to a low helium level. Don’t panic; it’s an urgent situation that you’ll need to deal with swiftly, but remember to keep your cool. Let’s break down the situation:

The Issue

Most MRI machines use liquid Helium to cool down the magnetic coils. It’s considered the perfect element to do the job; its cooling properties work perfectly to decrease the temperature of the magnetic coils (below 4.15 Kelvin or -269 degrees Celsius) while maintaining the superconductive properties of the coils. If its level falls close to 40%, you’ll be alerted to low helium levels.

What to Do

You’ll need to act quickly and schedule an immediate helium refill. The more the helium level falls, the quicker it’s burnt off. Failing to act quickly may damage your whole MRI machine, and that’s something you want to avoid at all costs. 

How to Prevent it

Once you’ve dealt with the urgent situation, it’s time to take preventive measures to avoid facing the same issue again. Make sure you schedule weekly monitoring to keep an eye at the helium level at all times. Ideally, it should be refilled whenever its percentage falls down in the 60s, and act within a week if you find the level falling to the 50s. You should never leave it until it falls close to the 40s. Another convenient option is to install a remote diagnostic unit on your MRI scanner to notify you as soon as it starts dropping. 

Image Quality Issues

Over time, you may begin experiencing various image quality issues, the most common of which is lines or grains coming up in the picture. If these issues don’t go away, then it’s time to inspect the coils. 

The Issue

The culprit for image artifacts is often the wear and tear of the coil that happens with using the machine over time. The older the machine, the more likely it is that some artifacts will appear. Given the importance of accurate MRI imaging, this issue needs to be resolved quickly.

What to Do

In this case, you’ll need to seek professional coil repair services to inspect your coils and do the necessary repair. MRI coils are quite easy to repair and don’t consume much time. If need be, you may get a loaner coil to keep using the machine while your coil is being repaired.

How to Prevent it

Again, staying constant on your maintenance schedule is necessary for your coils as well. This is especially important for older MRI scanners. Regarding software and general computer malfunctions, you can simply prevent these issues by keeping regular on system updates and technical maintenance. 

Rebooting Issues After Power Outage

Commonly occurring after power outage following a storm or a short circuit, many users experience rebooting issues with their MRI machines in the form of glitches, sudden shutdowns and restarting of the machine, and other rebooting issues. Sometimes, the MRI machine would even refuse to start at all. 

The Issue

Chances are, the storm or power outage has caused a power surge, which broke down certain parts of the electric circuit as a result. Other times, the glitches you’re facing are simply caused by out-dated software. 

What to Do

First, check the breakers in the building that’s hosting your MRI machine. After resetting the breakers, your MRI may start working again. In case it doesn’t, you may need to reset your whole system, which works just fine most of the time. In case you’re still facing more issues, make sure to check your current software for any recent updates. 

How to Prevent it

For starters, you should definitely install circuit breakers if you don’t have any. That will protect your machine from burning out with sudden power surges, which are pretty common after storms. Secondly, while you can’t do anything about natural phenomena, you can consider the idea of investing in a power generator to bring your building to life in case of a regional power outage.

MRI Overheating

MRI overheating can be witnessed in either a flashing overheating sign, which shuts down the machine until it cools down or excessive vibrations while the machine is operating. Since this is a dangerous situation, you must act quickly. 

The Issue

This can result from two scenarios: either you’ve failed to keep up with checking up on your helium levels, or your MRI’s cooling system is seriously failing and is using the liquid helium at an accelerated speed to keep up with the cooling needs of the magnet. In addition to low helium levels, any issues with the cold head or heat exchanger will result in overheating. Already scared patients may find the excessive vibration horrifying

What to Do

In this case, the best thing you can do is to contact your service provider to identify the root and do the necessary repair. Needless to say, stay regular on your maintenance schedule!

While MRI issues can be daunting at first, make sure to keep calm and act rationally. Most of the time, there’s a simple fix to the issue at hand. Better yet, make sure to maintain your machine properly to avoid facing any performance issues.

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Written by Jordan

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