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What is a Mobile MRI?

By Larry Ray Palmer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A mobile MRI is a portable version of the stationary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. This machine is used to scan various body parts and organs — such as the brain, knee or shoulder — to assess damage. The MRI is a non-invasive medical procedure, and it delivers a more detailed image than those provided by X-ray, ultrasound or computed axial tomography (CAT) scan technology. The mobile MRI and the stationary MRI machine both deliver a three-dimensional image that is able to reveal greater detail than other types of imaging equipment.

The mobile MRI can be a standalone unit or an MRI trailer, which is a mobile MRI housed inside a trailer for easy transportation. These mobile units are often purchased or rented by smaller hospitals and clinic groups or as a temporary replacement for malfunctioning stationary MRI equipment. The MRI scanner might be an open structure that passes around the body part to be scanned, or it might be a long, enclosed tube. The open style mobile MRI is extremely portable and usually is set up in a designated room of the clinic or hospital. The tube style of mobile MRI is usually seen in an MRI trailer, and the patient will have to enter the trailer for his or her MRI scan.

There are strong magnets used in an MRI, so the trailer is often lined with lead to prevent interference with nearby equipment. These strong magnets also have the potential to create serious trouble for a patient who has implanted metal devices, prosthetics or jewelry, so MRI technicians are generally very thorough in questioning the patient about such items before performing an MRI scanning procedure. The magnets used for MRI imaging are fully capable of dislodging metallic devices and prosthetics or even ripping a piercing out of the patients body.

Stationary MRI equipment is very expensive to purchase, operate and maintain. Many smaller hospitals and clinics cannot afford to buy stationary MRI equipment, but they still have the occasional need for MRI scans. Mobile MRI equipment or an MRI trailer makes it possible for a physician working in these hospitals to offer the appropriate tests for his or her patients without requiring the hospital or clinic to spend the extra money for a permanent MRI installation.

With mobile MRI equipment or an MRI trailer, one MRI unit can be shared by several clinics and hospitals. The mobile MRI is transported from one site to another on a scheduled rotation or on an as-needed basis. The various hospitals and clinics sharing the mobile MRI all share the costs of the purchase, operation and maintenance of the equipment, thus lowering the cost incurred by each party in the agreement.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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