MRI suite ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates remodel and upgrades

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A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new MRI suite in the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson hospital was hosted at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 28, 2019.

The MRI area remodel included the construction of a joint control room and scanning room; an upgraded 1.5 Tesla GE scanner; and newer patient amenities such as dressing rooms, a reception desk, a waiting area, and murals and improved lighting in the scanning rooms for patient comfort.

The new MRI scanner has updated technology allowing for shorter scan times and better image quality, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Burkett, 673d Medical Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of MRI.

“Some of the equipment packages that came with the new machine allow us to do more in-depth studies so fewer patients will be referred off-base to the civilian sector and we’ll be able to handle more in house,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sean Connors, 673d Medical Operations Squadron MRI technologist. “Having the two magnets side-by-side and sharing one control center allows us to have much more oversight over both scanners. We won’t need as many people to man both scanners so we can extend our hours, see more patients throughout the day and scan them more effectively to get them in and out.”

Another upgrade is a metal detector to signal if a person entering the MRI scanning room has any metal with them. Since the magnet in an MRI system is extremely strong, stronger than a magnet used at a junkyard to lift cars, this precaution is invaluable.

“Even a little paperclip can become a projectile and shoot into the magnet at about 40 miles per hour,” Burkett said. “Having that extra step of security for patient safety can eliminate any potential threats or safety risks.”

“The upgrades will positively affect our mission readiness by aligning our technology with civilian sector capabilities to deliver timely, efficient, and the highest quality of care to our military family and their dependents,” Burkett said.

The project, which broke ground in May 2018, was originally planned to be completed in November 2018. However, the earthquake that month caused some exterior structural damage to the hospital which caused a six-month delay. During construction, the MRI team saw patients in a trailer parked outside of the hospital from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“Without my MRI team, this project could not have been handled as well as it was,” Burkett said. “We worked nights and weekends, and we missed two summers in Alaska — which is pretty huge since we have such long winters. I want to thank them for all the hard work they’ve done, and how patient and flexible they were.”

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