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The imaging implant conundrum: scanning safely and efficiently

From the November 2018 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

By Lawrence N. Tanenbaum

In a busy imaging operation, it is critical to be efficient, on schedule and patient-centered.
One situation that can paralyze your operation is the unexpected finding that the patient you are about to scan has an indwelling implant.

Over the past several years, medical implants have advanced greatly, becoming smarter, safer and increasingly prevalent due to a rise in chronic conditions and overall advancement of surgical outcomes. Our growing senior population is expected to need an increasing number of MR scans due to conditions such as neurodegenerative conditions, cancer and musculoskeletal diseases. Today, approximately three million people have implanted medical devices and due to our aging population alone, this number is expected to grow by almost 70 percent by 2020.
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This is a concern for imaging operations. Implants create a challenging circumstance with limitations on safe scanning conditions that must be carefully considered. Researching the nature of devices in the course of a busy schedule can be deleterious to workflow. Obtaining critical information on the nature of the implant can be time-consuming. Sources about implant requirements such as MRIsafety.com are an invaluable and highly efficient resource.

Understand the impact on productivity and the patient experience
Implants generally fall into three categories, MR safe, MR conditional, or MR unsafe. While patients with MR conditional implants can undergo scanning safely, it must be done within clearly defined guidelines by well-trained MR staff armed with the appropriate information. Rigorous pre-screening routines must be in place to identify patients with implants, ideally, before they show up for their MR examination appointment. Unfortunately, imaging center staff regularly learn of implants as a patient shows up for the scan, and may not have the critical information immediately on hand – leading to inevitable delays and patient inconvenience that propagates through the rest of the scanning schedule.

Use technology to facilitate confident and safe scanning
Even with all the information about implant conditions at hand, the process of prescribing scan variables within the appropriate limits is typically done manually and often indirectly for each individual scanning sequence the patient requires - a process that requires significant expertise and is inevitably highly time-consuming and thus, inconvenient for the patient. The potential for error with multiple entries and manual adjustment is real. Fortunately, there are solutions.
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