When medically critical newborns receive care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), time is of the essence, particularly as care teams seek answers through diagnostic imaging. Transporting these tiny patients to MRI scanners takes valuable time and carries its own risk – two problems which a new NICU-dedicated MRI system at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is designed to solve.
The system, which arrived at the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women and Newborns in September 2018, is unique to neocritical care at the Brigham: it’s the first-ever FDA-approved, NICU-dedicated MRI system in the U.S.
“The installation of this state-of-the-art neonatal MRI system has expanded neocritical care for our littlest patients,” says Terrie Inder, MBChB, Chair of the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine. “Its location within the NICU allows MRI access from the first hours of life through the challenging, sometimes life-threatening time within the NICU.”
Beyond the time savings and risk reduction offered by the scanner’s in-unit location, the system also enhances care through its neonate-centric design, offering a temperature-controlled, self-contained incubator bed that minimizes patient movement and enables continuous monitoring of vital signs. This provides the care team with greater control over babies’ environments while offering care-critical information that can identify possible brain injuries and inform treatment – as well as help prevent future disabilities. Another benefit is the ability to place a ventilator close to the new scanner, as it has a much smaller, safer magnetic fringe field compared to a conventional MRI magnet.
Quieter than a traditional MRI system, the neonatal system is self-shielded and permanently magnetic, allowing for its placement in the NICU – an area that would typically be size- and risk-prohibitive for an MRI.
“This new MRI system is designed for a single use – scanning of the newborn within the controlled confines of the NICU,” says Srinivasan Mukundan, Jr., MD, Medical Director of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, at the Brigham. “It’s a new tool in our suite of diagnostics that will help us better target care to this vulnerable population of patients.”