A new $2 million magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner at The Corvallis Clinic features a more powerful magnet and state-of-the-art technology to produce clearer and more detailed images from inside the body.

That's an advantage for doctors, of course: "In terms of offering information to our physicians, we've really upped our game," said Laura Kaplan, an MRI technologist at the clinic.

But patients will notice something else even before the device starts generating its first images: Bathed in cool white light and with a bore that's 4 inches wider, "This actually looks inviting," said Bart Pierce, another clinic technologist. "You walk into this room and it looks like a cool place."

For patients who have battled claustrophobia in other MRI devices, the wider bore could make a difference, the technologists said.

The device, a Magnetom Vida 3 manufactured by Siemens, also features a wider table with sensors that automatically detect respiratory data for patients, decreasing the amount of time patients have to hold their breath to get a good image.

"The patient still has to hold still," Kaplan said. "But we think this is really going to help a lot."

MRI devices use magnetic fields, electrical field gradients and radio waves to generate images of organs inside the body. 

Michael Stringari, the clinic's imaging manager, said clinic officials were in the throes of a project last year to replace an older MRI device. During that process, the Food and Drug Administration gave its approval to the new Siemens Vida 3 device. Clinic officials investigated the new scanner and liked what they saw: "This is literally state-of-the-art for the next five years," Pierce said. So the clinic started arrangements to install the new device and train workers on how to use it, a process that included a number of scanning sessions using volunteers. The device started scanning patients last week.

Pierce said the clinic's Vida is one of only three such MRI scanners on the West Coast, and the only one that's not being used in an academic setting.

Stringari said the cost to patients of MRI scans at the clinic will not increase because of the new device.

One thing that will change, Pierce said, is the quality of the images the device can generate, and he uses a familiar example to make the point: "Think of a Polaroid," he said. "Now think of your iPhone X." 

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