Open MRI

About Us

The Open MRI is one part of the CT and MRI Department, and is staffed by a small dedicated, highly skilled team of Radiographers and support staff. The scans are reported by one of the 6 Consultant Radiologists who provide a quality Diagnostic service.

The Open MRI service at Burton started in 1999, over 11 years ago. Since the arrival of the first machine we have performed thousands of MRI examinations on patients.

A new 1.5 Tesla (high powered) scanner designed for the large or claustrophobic patient was installed August 2010; replacing the old 0.35 Tesla Open scanner.

We cater for both NHS and Private Patients in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Who comes to us?

I am nervous / anxious

All of the staff at Burton have extensive experience in dealing with anxious patients. We treat you as an individual to make the experience as pleasant as possible.

I don’t like closed in spaces

If you are having a scan of the lumbar spine or pelvis, two of the most common examinations, we will put you feet first into the scanner. This means that for the average person, your head is actually outside of the scanner. However, for scans of the head you will need to go head first into the scanner but the width means you will have more space than in a conventional scanner.

I can’t lie flat

The design of the scanner allows us greater flexibility. It is possible to perform most examinations with patients on their side or propped up if required.

I am too big to fit in a normal scanner

The scanner and trolley systems within the unit in theory allow for patients up to 250Kg to be scanned. If for instance you have broad shoulders and did not fit into your local hospitals scanner, then talk to us, we can help.

How do I get a scan?

We need a request from the Doctor or other recognised medical professional (i.e. physiotherapist) treating you. Information can be provided to us by phone, fax, letter or secure email.

We appreciate that if you are considering coming to us, then you may have already waited several weeks for an MRI at your local hospital. In order to help speed your diagnosis and also to allow your local hospital to meet its own waiting list targets, we aim to complete your scan within one week of receiving your request.

If your local hospital is connected to the NHS image link system, then your clinician can view your images and report almost immediately. If we have to post a CD of your images (via secure courier) to your clinician then this may slow the process down.

Do I need to pay for the scan?

If you are a private patient then you should contact your insurer to clarify that they will pay for the test. We may ask you for their authorisation number. For all Private patients a bill will be sent to you by the hospitals finance department after the scan has been performed.

For NHS patients the referring Doctor or Hospital will have agreed to fund your examination. You will not be charged for the test.

What examinations do you do?

The most common scans for the Open MRI are for the Spine and Brain.

Basically we can scan any part of the body. The one area that we do not at present undertake on the Open system is Heart MRI scans.

Some basic examinations can be completed within 10 minutes.

What does it look like?

If you do an internet search, you will find a variety of shapes and sizes of scanner that are labelled “Open” or “wide bore”. The key issues for many people are: does my head go into the scanner?, how close is the magnet to my head when I am lying down ?, how long is the hole?, how long does it take ?, just how good are the pictures?.

Many people have seen or been in a CT scanner, if you think of a CT scanner (a very large polo mint) then you will be fairly close to our new MRI.

Like many of the Open systems on the market, our old scanner was best described as like lying underneath a coffee table. The drawbacks of these systems are that although they have a large side to side opening, the magnets are still very close to the head. They also tend to have long holes, so that you still end up a long way into the scanner. Because of the magnet designs, other open machines tend to be low field systems (0.35-1 tesla), this can limit image quality, but more importantly it means that it takes considerably longer to produce the pictures.

Our new scanner is designed to provide high quality images using a 1.5Tesla magnet in as short a time as possible (most exams under 10 minutes in total). The space between your head and the magnet is also, we believe the best available and is far superior to the coffee table or doughnut type MRI systems.

The ability to scan patient’s feet first with the head actually out of the scanner for examinations below the chest is only possible due to the short length of the magnet hole. Some systems are still limited by their design to scanning lumbar spine patients by putting patients head first into the scanner.

Contact us

MRI Department

  • Direct Dial 01283 593103
  • Via Hospital switchboard 01283 511511 ext 3103
  • Direct FAX 01283 593046

Opening Hours :

  • Monday – Friday 8.30am to 8pm
  • Saturday 9.30am – 4pm

FAQs for Open MRI scans

  1. I don’t know if I can go through with a scan, can I come and have a look at it?
    Yes, just ring to arrange a suitable time. If you live a long way from Burton on Trent you may wish to contact your local hospitals CT Department, in order to look at a CT scanner, this will be fairly close to what the MRI looks like.
  2. Can you sedate me or give me a general anaesthetic?
    We don’t currently do general anaesthetics, over the years we have found that if you are anxious/nervous, the best course of action is to discuss your situation with your GP or referrer who could for instance prescribe some form of tablet to be taken an hour before the scan that just relaxes you. Please remember, you may need someone to drive you home after the examination if you have been prescribed a drug such as diazepam.
  3. Can I have a scan after I have had surgery?
    Hip / Knee replacements are no problem with regard to MRI scans. Most modern heart stents are also MRI compatible. We will not scan you if you have a pacemaker in or have had brain surgery and metal clips have been left inside your head. Similarly we will only scan patients with spinal shunts after clarification from your surgeon. This is not an exclusive list; please contact us to discuss any concerns.
  4. Can someone stay in the room with me?
    If you wish for a relative or friend to be in the room with you during the examination, this is possible as long as they are MRI compatible (i.e. no pacemaker/ not pregnant/ no history of metal in eyes – please see the MRI questionnaire for our standard questions).
  5. Do I need to get changed into a hospital gown?
    No, if you wear items of clothing without metal clips / zips you will not need to get changed. We will provide a secure locker for you store coats etc in.
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