MUHC installs advanced cardiac MRI
September 25, 2019
MONTREAL – The McGill University Health Centre has acquired Canada’s most sophisticated cardiac MRI machine to advance research into heart disease, and to provide faster and more accurate diagnoses.
Workers installed the $4-million 3T General Electric SIGNA machine at the MUHC super-hospital last weekend. In a delicate manoeuvre, a crane lifted the 7.7-tonne machine to an opening on the second floor of the radiology department – an event that drew onlookers, the Montreal Gazette reported.
“It’s a cutting-edge machine that allows us – in collaboration with the company and with scientists – to develop new methods that make cardiovascular diagnostic workups not only faster and easier, but also safer and way more accurate,” said Dr. Matthias Friedrich, chief of cardiovascular imaging at the MUHC.
“This machine allows us to see things that we wouldn’t see with other machines, like swelling in the heart, an increased fat content in the heart muscle and a lack of oxygen in the heart muscle,” Dr. Friedrich explained.
An $8-million grant from the MUHC Foundation made the purchase possible. The grant will also fund heart-imaging research for the next five years.
Technically, the provincial government approved the MRI machine for research purposes only – a bureaucratic decision that has frustrated doctors. However, the highly detailed heart scans will also enable clinicians to improve diagnoses of patients, leading to better outcomes.
“We will offer participation in our clinical studies to pretty much every patient that is supposed to have a regular MRI scan so that we can use the data,” Friedrich said. “But we will also recruit in our clinics and on the wards. We have research nurses who will go to doctors first and then to patients and ask them to participate.
“To me, it’s a pity that Quebec doesn’t release more money for clinical applications for cardiac MRI,” Friedrich continued. “We were not allowed to buy a scanner for clinical purposes, although I think it would help reduce waiting lists, make the diagnostic workups better and also save money.”
Once the machine is up and running, the MUHC expects to carry out up to 2,500 research scans a year.
Friedrich is one of the world’s top cardiovascular imaging specialists. Trained in Germany, he worked for the Montreal Heart Institute before joining the McGill network in 2015, largely so he could set up the GE SIGNA machine at the MUHC. The equipment is the most modern in Canada.
Andrew Coristine, a cardiac MRI scientist with GE, predicted that the research will lead to new standardized heart scans that will allow clinicians to examine more patients than ever before – and with more pinpointed diagnoses.
“This scanner is the flagship MRI system from GE Healthcare,” Coristine said. “The neat thing is we’re going to be using this with clinical scientists at McGill, as well as some leading medical-imaging companies, to be able to see new things faster than we ever did before.”