The MRI of the future is already here

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- If a cancer diagnosis isn't scary enough, consider the fear that can come with stepping into a loud and cramped MRI machine. Healthcare industry leaders are trying to change that experience by making the MRI machine one less thing to worry about.

Summerville Medical Center is the first hospital in the Tri-County area to get one of the newest MRI machine on the market, and it's one that puts emphasis on comfort.

"Anyone who's every had an MRI knows that it is loud and noisy and nervous thing to go through and this is one aspect to make it a little easier for them," said Greg Williams, the Director of Medical Imaging at Summerville Medical Center. "As healthcare has changed it has become more of a service industry you have to cater to your patients to have them have a more pleasant experience."

The more pleasant experience starts with patients being able to pick out a color scheme for the magnetic room they're about to enter. Using an iPad, patients choose a calming theme -- from under the sea, to clouds in the sky -- to create a relaxing atmosphere that is projected on a large screen on the ceiling above their head.

The MRI machine is quieter, shorter, and wider that is less enclosed and helps prevent patients from experiencing claustrophobia feelings.

Patients can also bring their own iPhone content and select personal videos, photos, music to play during the MRI exam. The extra personal features are meant to soothe the patients' minds as their bodies are being put to the test.

"We've done our best to make it a spa-like atmosphere," Greg Williams said.

The atmosphere is no doubt a far cry from the traditional MRI set up of tight walls, little headroom, and sterile surroundings. Just ask MRI patient Howard Tom Lehmann who after being diagnosed with cancer says he has had his fair share of MRI scans and prefers the new state-of-the-art machine.

"The old system was like riding in a Model A. Riding in this is like riding in a Cadillac," Lehmann said. "I'd do it again. I'd do it for a free ride it is so good."

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