Photo: Andrew Johnson, Hospital Director, Spire Leeds Hospital; Jayne Pears, Radiology Manager; Sue Downing, MRI Team Lead, Spire Leeds Hospital; Justin Ash, CEO, Spire Healthcare
Having successfully coped with the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic throughout the last year, including supporting Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust by providing diagnostic tests, surgical care and treatments to hundreds of NHS patients, Spire Leeds Hospital has now taken delivery of a new state-of-the-art MRI scanner which will expand patient services.
The addition of the new Siemens 1.5 Tesla ‘SOLA’ system is all part of a programme of investments the Hospital is making to improve patient services in 2021 and will position Spire at the forefront of imaging technology enabling up to 20 scans to be performed a day.
Susan Downing, MRI Team Lead said, “Spire Leeds prides itself on providing quality MRI Imaging and a compassionate and timely service for its MRI patients. The new scanner will increase the type of tests we can offer and improve the patient experience especially those with claustrophobia. Scan times for some examinations will be quicker which means patients do not have to keep still for as long a period of time. With the latest clinical software and hardware and a larger bore size (hole) - 15cms wider than the previous system, it will make a dramatic difference to both the patient experience and the imaging quality.
“The larger bore hole in the middle makes is vital to how the scan feels, this usually means that some patients that may have struggled previously due to claustrophobia will find it much easier to complete their examinations with less stress. The latest technology on this new system means we can now scan patients for breast MRI feet-first. It could also negate the need for sedation for some patients with the benefit of not impinging on their normal workday activities,” said Susan.
Spire Leeds performs between 4,000 and 4,500 scans per year for most specialties, including MSK, neurology, vascular, breast, oncology, hepatobiliary, paediatrics and gynaecology. Now, for the first time this new equipment will enable specialist radiographers to offer expanded services including cardiac imaging using intelligent monitoring of the patient’s heart rhythms.. A cardiac MRI can also be used as a screening tool to rule out inflammatory heart disease commonly associated with diseases like long Covid. Susan said, “Spire has the advantage of having a very experienced MRI team that have undergone scanner replacement and training on new systems previously. We are perfectly placed to make full use of our training and clinical knowledge and apply it to this new system.
Installation of the huge 4 tonne system threw up some daunting challenges. The equipment was so large an exterior brick wall had to be partially knocked down before the scanner could be moved into its new home in the radiography department. The existing scanner first had to be removed through the 2 metres x 2 metres opening made in the brick wall before its replacement could be lowered into the imaging department using specialist lifting equipment and a 25-metre crane.
“The new cardiac imaging availability at Spire means that if a patient is seeing a cardiologist here, there is more continuity of care as they will not have to go elsewhere for this imaging. Cardiac MRI can access heart tissue, for example looking for damage to heart muscle post heart attack. We can inspect heart valves for leaks and check for infection or inflammation. We can image the heart whilst it is in motion and therefore get functional information for the heart valves and access the heart walls function following infection or heart attack. There is no radiation with MRI and cardiac MRI is also used to assess elite athletes to check for anomalies,” added Susan.
As part of the refurbishment the radiography department has been redesigned to make it feel less clinical and more private. With mood lighting in a spacious environment, a special headset enables patients to listen to music and radio podcasts. There are communication systems in the room for interaction between the patient and the radiographer and CCTV allows room round observation of the patient which means the entire MRI experience is more pleasant and also child-friendly.