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Dr. Melanie Clark, assistant professor of radiology at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, said the USA Medical Center has recently installed a new, more technologically advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine that provides doctors the best diagnostic imaging available in our region.
An MRI is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of organs and structures inside the body. In many cases, an MRI gives unique information about structures in the body and may also show problems that cannot be seen with other imaging methods.
USA’s new MRI machine is a 3 Tesla (3T) model, and it replaced the previous 1.5 Tesla model MRI machine. A Tesla is the unit of measurement quantifying the strength of a magnetic field.
Dr. Clark said the new machine is more convenient and provides better quality of care to patients because of the capability for faster scans and better images. When a patient moves during an MRI it can distort the image. As a result, the faster and more efficient the machine is, the better the image will be. Faster results also make the examination more comfortable for the patients.
Dr. Clark said the overall enhanced resolution and fine detail the machine provides allows the referring physicians and interpreting radiologists a clearer picture, which produces better results for the patient.
“This is the only 3 Tesla MRI machine in the Alabama Gulf Coast area, and it dramatically decreases the examination time for the patient, as well as improves the image quality significantly,” Dr. Clark said. “It enhances everyone’s experience - both the physician and the patient.”
Doctors order MRI scans to diagnose a host of medical conditions, including tumors, bleeding, injury, blood vessel diseases, or infections. An MRI also may be done to provide more information about a problem studied with another type of scan.
Dr. Clark trained an extra year in musculoskeletal imaging. At the USA Medical Center, she primarily reads scans of bones and joints in orthopaedic patients.
“At USA, I am the specialty reader for these scans and use my training and expertise to give the highest level of care to our patients and qualified guidance to the residents I train,” she said. “I am always available to any patient or clinician if they have questions.”
Dr. Clark also does procedures for patients to enhance the MRI’s capabilities to diagnose problems and procedures to relieve pain in joints, such as a hip injection.
She said the combination of MRI machines at the USA Medical Center and USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, along with the expertise of the radiology faculty, provides patients an opportunity for care that they can only get from an academic medical center.
“The MRI machine at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital is an open MRI with a special, wider opening, which is less intimidating for children and those who have claustrophobia,” she said. “Our new 3T MRI at the USA Medical Center complements that technology and helps us provide an unprecedented level of care for our patients that is unique to the area.”
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