MRI SAFETY WEEK!

By Norman McPhail

Welcome to MRI Safety Week! MRI Safety week was put in place to help educate both imaging centers & patients. Safety is always top priority for MRI centers but they can always do better. A few years back (2001), a patient in New York died due to a metal oxygen canister being drawn into the MRI where the patient was lying. With proper preparation, this accident should never have happened. MRI Safety Week will help make your next MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan experience safer, easier and much more comfortable.

Research and preparation. An MRI is basically a large magnet that uses its magnetic field to produce pictures of your body’s organs and structures. The advantage that an MRI’s has over CT Scans or x-rays is that it does not emit cancer causing radiation, just a harmless magnetic field.
Before your MRI exam, do a little research so you know what to expect. The goal is to be prepared, no surprises. Learn about how an MRI works and what to expect. Knowledge will help to ease your anxiety. Ask your doctor details about why he wants the exam. What he is looking for. What MRI machine is best for your scan?

MRI Preparation. In preparing for an MRI, it is important to know that all metal objects must be removed from your body before entering into a scanning room. You must remove objects such as hearing aids, dentures, partial plates, keys, cell phone, glasses, hair pins, jewelry, piercings, watches, money clips, credit cards, coins, pens, pocket knife, just to name a few.

Drawbacks of an MRI. One of the biggest complaints about an MRI is that it is very loud. Ear plugs or music can help drown out the noise. Check with the imaging facility ahead of time to see if they have music you can listen to or if you can bring in your own music.
An additional complaint is that MRI’s are done in a confined space (23” wide tube). Some people are claustrophobic and don’t enjoy confined spaces. Even a healthy person being squeezed into a small tube and being forced to lie still for 20-30 minutes is very difficult.

Types of MRI Machines. A standard MRI exam takes place with you lying on a table inside a small tube. During the scan you must lie completely still for 20-30 minutes. Any movement can blur the results and you will have to re-do the exam.
For those who are claustrophobic, you can opt for an Open MRI. An Open MRI does not have a tube, but an open space to lie down on for the scan. A Stand-up MRI is also available (you can sit down as well) for patients that are unable to lie down. Finally, the Short Bore MRI. A Short Bore MRI works better with claustrophobic patients. The tube is 50% shorter and 5% wider than normal. Also, Short Bore machines only require part of the body to be inside the scanning tube. A high field Short Bore machine emits clearer pictures in the same amount of time.

MRI Quality. Tesla strength is important part of MRI quality. The Tesla strength is the strength of the magnet inside the MRI. Tesla strengths range from .3 all the way up to 3.0. The higher the tesla, the clearer the scan and the shorter the scan will take. But not all exams require a 3.0 tesla machine. Check with your doctor for his recommendation for type of MRI and strength that would be best for your scan.

MRI Exam with Contrast. An MRI exam may include contrast. Contrast is a dye that is injected to help enhance the scan. Contrast does cost extra. Contrast may be needed if the doctor is looking for cancer, tumor or the patient has had a previous surgery.

If you are a patient in need of an affordable diagnostic imaging scan, contact MRI Scan Group at 1.866.674.8840, and check out their website at http://mriscangroup.com/

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OBESITY RECOGNIZED BY THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION

By: Norman McPhail

The American Medical Association (AMA) has taken a giant step recently, in which they now recognize obesity as a disease. The AMA’s change of heart will help expand health coverage and get more help for overweight people. “The American Medical Associations’ recognition that obesity is a disease carries a lot of clout,” says Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. “Their opinion can influence policy makers who are in a position to do more to support interventions and research to prevent and treat obesity.”

In the United States today, obesity has risen to alarming numbers. We are seeing 35% of adults as being overweight and 17% of children. In 1962, obesity was at a rock bottom of 13%. Obesity has gotten out of control and something needs to be done. The cause has been blamed on fast food, sodas, school lunch programs, you name it. Bottom line is, we all need to take control of our lives. I’m not talking about limiting the size of a soda at McDonald’s; I am talking about something that will make a difference in the lives of people that really need the help.

“I think you will probably see physicians taking obesity more seriously, counseling their patients about it,” said Morgan Downey, publisher of the online Downey Obesity Report. “Companies marketing the products will be able to take this to physicians and point to it and say, ‘Look, the mother ship has now recognized obesity as a disease”.

A number of medical issues caused by being overweight include high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, & cancer, to name just a few. However, getting the medical help you need if you have had any of these issues caused by being overweight, has always been a challenge.
Being overweight can also hinder the availability of certain medical help you might need. MRI’s have weight and size limitations on patients. Imaging quality, including ultrasounds, are affected by obesity. For a CT scan, an obese patient may need longer exposure to radiation, which can place you at risk for overexposure. This is in addition to the high cost of diagnostic imaging, even with insurance.

One downside to the AMA change is that it might encourage more people to rely on medications and drugs to combat their obesity, rather than change their lifestyle and eating habits. Exercise and healthy eating is the best defense against obesity, and we need to spread the word.

For those in need of affordable diagnostic imaging scans, there are services like MRI Scan Group, whose network of contracted imaging facilities offer reduced rates for uninsured and underinsured patients. Contact them at http://mriscangroup.com/, or call them at 1.866.674.8840.

 

JUNE = AIDS AWARENESS MONTH

By Elizabeth Meier

June is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) awareness month in the United States – a month to create awareness of the virus that has taken the lives of more than 25 million people since 1981. Education and awareness has given way to improved care, and a higher survival rate, however, AIDS remains a critical world health issue and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality, states the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

The pulmonary complications of HIV/AIDS are a common issue adding “significantly to patient morbidity and mortality. Imaging plays a vital role in the diagnosis and management of lung of complications associated with HIV. Accurate diagnosis is based on an understanding of the pathogenesis of the processes involved and their imaging findings. Imaging also plays an important role in selection of the most appropriate site for tissue sampling, staging of disease and follow-ups… Almost 70% of the patients suffer at least one respiratory complication during the course of their illness” (NCBI). Diagnostic imaging can help doctors and/or radiologists differentiate between the specific infections that HIV/AIDS patients commonly acquire, making treatment more specific and effective.

Last year, TIME Magazine reported on a new drug treatment, approved by the U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration,) that will actually prevent infection in healthy people. “The drug, called Truvada, which is already approved for the treatment of HIV in infected patients, works by lowering the amount of virus circulating in people’s blood. But clinical trials show that it can also protect uninfected high-risk people from acquiring the virus, if they take the drug daily before and after exposure.” While it cannot cure AIDS, “the drug can thwart HIV’s ability to take hold in healthy cells and start an infection, by blocking the activity of an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate.” This is in addition to treatment methods already being used, including “highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART), medications that must be used together—often called a drug cocktail, which doctors use to fight HIV infection. These medications attack HIV at multiple points in its growth cycle and are more effective in suppressing the virus. Combining drugs also limits the risk that HIV will become resistant to these medications.” (MSN HealthyLiving)

Still, this issue is not one that will disappear overnight or anytime soon. The best hope we have is to educate the population and create awareness of this horrible epidemic to help lower the frightening statistics. With advancing technology and increased awareness, there is hope that one day that the number of people suffering from this virus can be exponentially decreased and even one day that the virus can be eradicated. Until that time, educate yourself, and your friends and family, on the facts about HIV/AIDS.

Information from the CDC – Center for Disease Control:

HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Currently, people can live much longer – even decades – with HIV before they develop AIDS. This is because of “highly active” combinations of medications that were introduced in the mid-1990s.

HIV is spread primarily by:
• Not using a condom when having sex with a person who has HIV. All unprotected sex with someone who has HIV contains some risk. However:
o Unprotected anal sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex.
o Among men who have sex with other men, unprotected receptive anal sex is riskier than unprotected insertive anal sex.
• Having multiple sex partners or the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase the risk of infection during sex. Unprotected oral sex can also be a risk for HIV transmission, but it is a much lower risk than anal or vaginal sex.
• Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare illicit drugs for injection.
• Being born to an infected mother—HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
HIV cannot reproduce outside the human body. It is NOT spread by:
• Air or water.
• Insects, including mosquitoes. Studies conducted by CDC researchers and others have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from insects.
• Saliva, tears, or sweat. There is no documented case of HIV being transmitted by spitting.
• Casual contact like shaking hands or sharing dishes.
• Closed-mouth or “social” kissing.

If you or someone you know is in need of affordable diagnostic imaging for their HIV/AIDS related pulmonary and/or respiratory issues, please visit MRI Scan Group’s website at http://mriscangroup.com/ for a list of imaging centers nationwide that can provide the care you need at a price you can afford.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
June 27th is National HIV/AIDS Testing Day, and was established in 2005 as an annual observance to promote HIV testing. For more information on testing locations and how you can get involved, go to http://aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/hiv-testing-day/.

RESOURCES:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2954374/

http://healthland.time.com/2012/07/17/truvada-5-things-to-know-about-the-first-drug-to-prevent-hiv/#ixzz2WghI4GOl

http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/aids-hiv/fighting-the-virus-treatment-options-for-hiv-and-aids-1

http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/basic/#origin

http://mriscangroup.com/

Know Before You Go: MRI Knowledge

by Norman McPhail

What is more important when getting an MRI: Cost or Quality? Is a more expensive scan better quality than a lower priced scan? The simple answer is no, price and quality are not related. In order to weed through the pricing scramble, you will first need to figure out the type of scan you need. Different scans will require a different MRI. Start by asking your doctor to recommend what type of MRI is best for your exam. Just like everything else, MRI Scanners come in many shapes, sizes, quality and pricing. Price deviation in the United States is mainly due to the lack of competition and patient information. Bottom line; do your homework when choosing an MRI facility. Knowledge is everything.

Differences between MRI Scanners
1. Strength of magnet (1.5 Tesla to .25 Tesla) is the most important thing to look for when getting an MRI. The lower-field magnets work for a lot of scans but sometimes a high-field magnet is needed for adequate detail. A high-field MRI increases the signal-to-noise ratio which improves the quality of the image (less grain). It also can measure blood-oxygen levels to help map neural (nervous system) activity in the brain & spinal cord. Check with your doctor for recommended Magnet Strength.

2. Open MRI . If someone is claustrophobic, has a fear of suffocation or space restrictions, an Open MRI is the way to go. However, Open MRIs use a lower field magnet and do not produce as good an image as a high-field MRI.

3. Wide Bore MRI. Traditionally MRI scanners have a tunnel measuring 22 inches wide and are limited by the size and weight of the patient. Wide bore units have a larger tunnel, measuring 6” more space in diameter, than traditional MRI scanners and can handle larger patients (up to 500lbs). An Open MRI is also an option.

4. Short Bore Magnets. A lot of modern high-field (1.5 Tesla or greater) magnets now come with a short bore tunnel (49”) which gives the patient more of an open feel, and will help with anxiety and claustrophobia.

Having a basic knowledge of MRI scanners will make you a better, more informed consumer. You do not want to have to schedule a 2nd exam because the scan was not right and didn’t produce the image needed to properly diagnose your condition. The more you know before you schedule your exam, the better. For more information, go to http://mriscangroup.com.

YOU BETTER SHOP AROUND… FOR AN MRI!

By Norman McPhail

Being uninsured and needing an MRI in the United States can be an overwhelming experience. The health care/diagnostic imaging business is a tangled web of confusion. Prices for a scan can set you back upwards of $2,000 per scan (Ouch)! The question is: How can you find a competitive priced scan to fit the uninsured budget?

In an emergency, you might not have the option to choose a facility for imaging services. Uninsured diagnostic imaging patients usually don’t need to have the scan done same day and thus have time to shop. The problem is that most people without insurance don’t realize that they CAN shop around. But YOU do! The best way to fight back is to do your homework. Just like when you are buying a car or new TV; shop around! You can search by price or location & scan type. If you do your research right, you could save THOUSANDS of dollars.

Imaging rates are negotiated between insurance companies, physicians, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies. The negotiated rates are normally shielded and not made available to the public. These shielded rates make it a muddy mess for uninsured patients to research and compare prices. The good news is that negotiated rates only apply to insurance companies. You do have options being uninsured and needing to pay for your health care out of your pocket.

My go-to tool for diagnostic image shopping is the internet! The internet will help you find the imaging services you need, for a price that won’t break the bank. Price comparison websites such as Healthcare Blue Book, New Choice Health and MRI Scan Group can assist you in making an informed decision that won’t break the bank. Affordable imaging is available at your fingertips, so get those piggies moving!