Outpatient Imaging Centers Serving Region Expand Capabilities, Extend Hours

In 2010, Newsletter, Volume 2 Issue 1 by Addison Clark

Upgrades at several outpatient medical imaging centers are expanding testing options for referring physicians, improving diagnostic image quality, and helping meet increased demand for imaging studies, said Ed Swager, chief executive officer of Radiologic Associates of Fredericksburg (RAF). The changes also are reducing exam time required for completing certain imaging studies, and extending hours of operation for some facilities.

RAF’s radiologists provide professional services to four outpatient centers operated by Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg (MIF). The centers are Medical Imaging of North Stafford; Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg on the Mary Washington Hospital (MWH) Campus; the Imaging Center for Women on the MWH Campus; and Medical Imaging at Lee’s Hill.

North Stafford: Expanded X-ray

Medical Imaging of North Stafford has replaced and upgraded X-ray equipment in response to the changing requirements of physicians who refer patients to the facility, Swager said. Equipment originally installed in September 2007 was designed to support the screening of orbits for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) safety reasons. Over the years, referring physicians requested that the facility add comprehensive X-ray capabilities.

Swager said the new X-ray equipment, installed in October 2009, supports all X-ray procedures needed by referring physicians, including upper and lower extremity imaging, spinal imaging, and imaging of bariatric patients. The new X-ray equipment produces high-quality images that can be distributed to referring physicians electronically through the secure Picture Archive and Communications System (PACS). They can also be compared to prior imaging done on the patient at any MIF or Mary Washington Healthcare facility.

“As a result of these new capabilities, we are seeing a 40 percent increase in the number of X-ray studies performed at North Stafford while also seeing patient satisfaction of greater than 98 percent,” Swager said.

Medical Imaging at North Stafford also provides ultrasound, Computed Tomography (CT) and MRI studies.

Lee’s Hill: Extended Hours, Improved MRI

Medical Imaging at Lee’s Hill has expanded its weekday evening hours to support the freestanding emergency department that opened in the same building, Swager said. As a result, outpatient appointments also can be scheduled later in the evening.

The facility previously was open until 5:30 p.m. weekdays for outpatient studies. These hours of operation have been extended to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours offered 7 a.m. to Noon for walk-in X-rays.

“The main benefit is convenience for patients who are commuting, are working, or are providing child care during normal business hours,” Swager explained.

Swager said the facility is also planning a major upgrade of its MRI unit, scheduled for completion in May.

“The magnet strength of the older unit is 0.6 Tesla. The new unit is 1.0 Tesla, which will improve image quality greatly because the increased magnetic field improves the signal to noise ratio, providing an overall improved image. Spatial resolution and contrast resolution will be enhanced, improving diagnostic capabilities,” Swager said.

“The new MRI also will reduce exam times. An MRI for lumbar/spine that now takes 45 minutes, for example, can be completed in 30 minutes with the new unit. We will be able to schedule more MRI studies per day for referring physicians, and enable patients to spend less time in the facility,” Swager added.

Medical Imaging at Lee’s Hill has the area’s only true “open” MRI. It is open on all sides, benefiting patients who are anxious, claustrophobic, or obese, Swager said. Some MRI units that are advertised as being “open design” really just have slightly wider gantries than traditional MRI machines.

Medical Imaging at Lee’s Hill also offers X-ray, ultrasound, CT and bone density scans.

MIF on the MWH Campus: Improved CT

Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg on the MWH Campus replaced its five-year-old CT unit with more advanced equipment in October 2009. Swager said the new CT unit represents a major upgrade, as it can complete 64 slices (images) in a single rotation compared with the four slices per rotation possible with the older unit.

“The new CT unit requires less time to cover a greater anatomical area,” Swager explained. “It can reduce exam time by 20 percent while significantly improving diagnostic capabilities.”

The facility also offers X-ray, fluoroscopy/arthography, ultrasound, CT, MRI, PET/CT and MRI breast biopsy studies. It provides Saturday morning appointments in addition to weekday appointments, with appointments scheduled later in the day on an as-needed basis.

For more information, please contact Ed Swager at eswager@rafadmin.com or (540) 361-1000.

 Note: Digital mammography capabilities at the Imaging Center for Women were covered in the Spring 2009 issue of Imaging Advances.