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About Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Image: Doctors and patient during the MRI examination
Conventional MRI tube | © Robert Kneschke /

Normally all atomic nuclei in the body rotate around their own axis. This angular momentum is also called "nuclear spin". Due to their rotation, these nuclei generate a minimal magnetic field. The hydrogen nuclei, which occur most frequently in the body, are particularly important here. Under natural circumstances, the magnetic orientation of the hydrogen nuclei is purely random.

If, however, a strong magnetic field is applied from the outside, these atomic nuclei all arrange themselves in the same direction, namely in the longitudinal direction of the body. Magnetic resonance imaging uses this principle. There is a very strong magnetic field in the MRI machine. In addition to this magnetic field, the MRI device also emits radio waves with a high frequency onto the body during the MRI examination.

This changes the orientation of the hydrogen nuclei in the body. After each radio wave pulse, the hydrogen nuclei return in the longitudinal direction. The atomic nuclei emit special signals, which are measured and then combined into images by the computer. However, these signals are not sufficient to obtain usable images. For this reason, additional magnetic fields are applied to the body with the aid of so-called coils.

Image: Our tips in purchasing new medical equipment

The MRI machine allows images to be taken at any desired body level and is currently regarded in many areas as the best way to visualize pathological changes. MRI examination is an integral part of the treatment especially in tumor diagnostics, the examination of the internal organs and in injuries to tendons, muscles, ligaments and soft parts of the joints.

Difference to Computed Tomography (CT)

While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) creates a strong magnetic field to generate images, computed tomography (CT) uses X-Rays. With the MRI device, soft' tissue such as the brain, organs and muscles can be better identified. The patient is driven into a tube and, despite the loud noises caused by the magnetic field, is not exposed to harmful X-rays.

On the other hand CT provides three-dimensional cross-sectional images in a very short time. This examination is particularly suitable for emergencies or seriously ill patients. The X-rays are captured after they have penetrated the patient's body. A computer then generates sectional images, which a doctor can then observe closely on the monitor. The disadvantage of this examination is the high radiation exposure, which is significantly higher than with a normal X-ray examination.

Device Properties MRI CT
Alternative Name Magnetic Resonance Imaging CAT Scan
Method Imaging Method Imaging Method
Dimensions Displayed 2D and 3D 2D and 3D
Function By generating alternating magnetic fields By means of X-rays
Unit Long tube Short ring tunnel
Suitable for Skull, brain, lungs, digestive tract, tissues, bones, vessels Brain, Muscles, Spine
Noise Exposure High Low
X-rays No Yes
Examination Duration 15 - 60 Minutes 5 - 10 Minutes

Application Areas and Costs

Image: A patient and a doctor looking at an MRI image
An MRI machine for a sports injury to the leg | © Garnet Photo /

The market for diagnostic MRI systems has a great future because an MRI machine is essential for many medical practices today. However, implementation is not that easy as the costs are an important factor. These are at least 750,000 euros net.

The costs for an interventional MRI system can even be over 3 million euros net. An open MRI is most pleasant for patients and offers numerous advantages. Due to the open design, the device offers an all-round view for the patient. The high lying comfort is particularly suitable for patients with claustrophobia, pain, limitations or for sick and elderly.

With the Upright MRI, it is possible for the first time to perform a magnetic resonance imaging examination upright and thus under the natural weight load. In many cases, this enables supplementary and more meaningful diagnostics, which cannot be achieved with conventional, exclusively horizontal MRI examinations. If you want to save money, you might want to take a look at the used equipment.

MRI System Costs (new, Installation inc.) Costs (used, Installation inc.)
Open MRI Ca. 750.000 - 3.500.000 € Ca. 160.000 - 1.500.000 €
Upright MRI Ca. 750.000 - 3.500.000 € Ca. 500.000 - 2.500.000 €
Closed MRI Ca. 750.000 - 3.500.000 € Ca. 30.000 - 100.000 €

Installation and Running Costs

In order to be able to use an MRI machine properly, accessories must be purchased. This ranges from special MRI furniture such as couches, chairs and instrument trolleys to electronic MRI accessories such as monitors and ventilators. The cost is between approx. 100 and 2,000 euros net, depending on the article. Some MRI systems (e.g. Upright MRI) allow the installation of an entertainment system.

The current operating costs are currently up to 15,000 euros net per month. This amount depend on the coolant and power consumption as well as the software in use. In order to install an MRI machine, a suitable room is required. If necessary, practices and hospitals must carry out conversion measures before purchasing a device. The rooms should be generously equipped and offer plenty of space for equipment and accessories.

In summary, the acquisition costs for an MRI system are made up of various factors. The price for an MRI 1.5 Tesla device is between approx. 1,250,000 and 3,500,000 euros net. In addition, there are costs for accessories, maintenance work and conversion costs for the MRI room. In the following table you will find a summary list of costs associated with the purchase of an MRI.

MRI System: Installation and Running Costs Expected Total Costs (new, with installation)
MRI 1.5 Tesla - large opening, strong gradients, including all coil sets and software options ca. 1.250.000 - 3.500.000 €
Preparation of the Examination Room (magnetic shielding, cooling system, statics, sound insulation, electrics) ca. 350.000 €
Preparation of the Control Room (air conditioning, furnishing, electronics) ca. 20.000 €
Installation of the 3.5t Magnet (two-day road access barrier, heavy-duty crane, building opening) ca. 25.000 €
Contrast medium injector (automatic, flow-controlled introduction of contrast medium) ca. 25.000 €
Connection to the digital image archive ca. 5.000 €
Connection of image printers (film laser / A3 paper printer, high resolution) ca. 30.000 €
Maintenance contract (four operating maintenance contracts, coverage of labour and spare part costs) per calendar year ca. 85.000 € (pro Jahr)
Operating costs (electricity, helium, water cooling) per calendar year ca. 20.000 € (pro Jahr)

Well-known Manufacturers of MRI Systems

Image: An MRI machine in a clinic
An MRI machine in a clinic | © Alex Kh /

The selection of certified manufacturers of MRI equipment is limited, but the range is very broad. The most popular are manufacturers who offer upright devices and allow flexible positioning of the patient. In the meantime, manufacturers such as Philips and Siemens have established themselves as market leaders in the medical equipment market.

The medical equipment market for diagnostic MRI machines offers a wide range of products. By far the most frequently used system type is the open MRI, which offers many advantages for patients. You will also find many manufacturers of MRI software. To give you an overview, the following table shows a selection of the most popular MRI devices used in German hospitals and clinics.

Manufacturer MRI Machine Weight Features Advantages
GE Healthcare SIGNA Creator not specified FOV: 50 cm not specified
Express Coil Technology
SV25.0 Application Suite
Siemens MAGNETOM Prisma 13 T BioMatrix Technology not specified
Diameter: 70 cm
Required Installation Space:
33 m²
MAGNETOM Vida 7,5 T Diameter: 70 cm BioMatrix Technology
Required Installation Space: Intuitive Operating Concept
31 m² Patient-friendly Lighting Concept
Philips Ingenia 1.5T 3,5 T (FOV): 55 cm Superior Imaging
Diameter: 70 cm Fast Operation
Maximum Load: 250 Kg Custom Imaging
Required Installation Space: IntelliSpace Portal
27 m²
Ingenia Elition 3.0T X 4,8 T dStream Technology Respiratory Signals
40 % higher SNR Faster Patient Preparation
Diameter: 70 cm Up to 60% Higher Resolution
Required Installation Space: Increased Patient Comfort
24 m²
Prodiva 1.5T CX 2,7 T dStream Technology Respiratory Signals
Diameter: 60 cm Faster Patient Preparation
Minimum Room Size: Up to 60% Higher Resolution
25 m² Increased Patient Comfort

Maintenance, Service and Accessories for MRI Systems

When using medical equipment such as an MRI machine, doctors are obliged to document the results. In practices and clinics there must be a medical record book in which operating manuals, briefings, staff training, maintenance and repairs etc. are stored.

In order to ensure rapid repair in the event of damage, the MRI machine should be serviced regularly. There are certain instructions and specifications for this purpose. Moreover, you should get insured for repairs, damages and other insurance-relevant occurrences. In addition to the costs for maintenance and repairs, there are also the operating costs.

An MRI machine consumes a lot of electricity. The annual operating costs are approximately 180,000 euros net. The disposal of old equipment is also a cost item. On our website you can obtain free quotes for your used MRI system. We will forward your enquiry to qualified dealers and thus guarantee you quick purchase offers. In the following table you will find a selection of MRI accessories that can be purchased.

Furniture and Fittings Electronic Devices Other Accessories
Couches Ventilation and Oxygen Supply Fire Extinguishers
Wheelchairs Pressure Regulator Instruments
Linings and Transport Displays Trash Cans
Infusion Stand Audio System Bag Holder
Instrument Trolley Entertainment Videosystem Steps
Surgical Chairs Oxygen Monitor Visual Aids
Shelves and Equipment Trolleys Syringe Pump Titanium Tools (antimagnetic and radio-free)
Trauma Transporter Video Surveillance  

MRI Examination: Information for Patients

Image: A patient is pushed into the MRT tube
Metallic objects are not allowed in the MRI tube | © diyanski /

An MRI examination usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. Before an examination, there is always an explanatory talk. The doctor (radiologist) explains the entire process to the patient, what risks there are and whether there are any alternatives.

In addition, the doctor informs himself about your state of health and checks whether there are any objections to the MRI examination. For the MRI examination, a couch drives the patient into a ring-shaped magnetic tunnel until the body area to be examined is in the middle of the tube. The examination is gentle and painless and it does not require potentially harmful X-rays. A major disadvantage of MRI, however, is that metal on or in the body (metal implants, metal splinters, etc.) can cause side effects and image disturbances.

However, modern metal implants are usually not a problem as they are made of non-magnetic metal. The prices for an MRI examination vary depending on the organ and the complexity of the examination. During the entire examination, the patients are monitored by medical personnel via a screen or directly from the control room. The following table lists the estimated duration for individual body regions:

MRI Examination Duration
Head 30 Minutes
Knee 30 Minutes
Shoulder 20 Minutes
Lumbar Spine 20 Minutes
Cervical Spine 20 Minutes
Thoracic Spine 20 Minutes
Back 20 Minutes
Chest 20 Minutes
Elbows 30 Minutes
Heart 60 Minutes
Hip 20 Minutes
Lungs 20 Minutes
Whole Body 60 Minutes