Long-awaited MRI scanner almost ready

The wait is almost over as Timaru's MRI scanner gears up for its first patient.

Patients could be making use of the long-awaited magnetic resonance imaging scanner by early next week, the South Canterbury District Health Board's general manager of finance, IT and commercial, Nigel Trainor, said yesterday.

Builders are expected to complete construction of the purpose-built building by today, which could make the machine available to patients by Monday or Tuesday, he said.

Tests have been carried out on the scanner this week.

It has been 18 months since the project's $2.7 million fundraising initiative was launched. Due to a successful response, that figure was bumped up to $2.8m in April so an anaesthetising machine could also be purchased.

That pool of funds has since exceeded $3m as the community continues to give generously to the cause.

Of the $3m raised by the community, $1.59m went towards the machine, $800,000 towards the building and $200,000 for an anaesthetic machine.

A further $200,000 will go towards training staff to operate the MRI scanner. Remaining money will be kept in the Aoraki MRI Charitable Trust for ongoing maintenance costs and future replacement of the machine, which has a life expectancy of 10 years.

The MRI scanner will save about 1400 patient trips to Christchurch each year.

The machine's presence in Timaru will mean the 500 patients who require publicly funded MRI scans each year, and the 950 who get the scans done privately, or paid for by their health insurance, will no longer need to go to Christchurch.

An MRI scanner provides a non-invasive medical test, using a magnetic field and radio frequency pulses to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissue, bones and virtually all other internal body structures.

The images are then examined on a computer, which allows physicians to better evaluate and determine the presence of diseases that may not be picked up by X-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scans.

MRI can examine organs of the chest and abdomen, pelvic organs, blood vessels, breasts and musculoskeletal system.

It is commonly used to diagnose tumours of the reproductive organs, causes of pelvic pain, breast cancer, tumours of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, heart problems, diseases of the abdominal organs, and joint and muscle issues.

The Timaru Herald