MRI scanners do a good job of imaging the brain to help doctors find potential health problems. But the experience of actually sitting in one leaves something to be desired. Aside from being cramped and claustrophobic, MRI scanners can get LOUD.
Case in point, listen to this:
GE Healthcare says they’re ushering in a future full of silent MRIs with Silent Scan, a new way to reduce noise in MRI scanning that just hit the commercial market. The press materials are a little coy about how this actually works, but say that it’s a “radically new” way to acquire magnetic resonance data: “in combination with proprietary high-fidelity gradient and [radiofrequency] system electronics, noise is not merely dampened; it is virtually eliminated at the source.”
GizMag explained it this way:
First, acoustic noise is essentially eliminated by using a new 3D scanning and reconstruction technique called Silenz. When the Silenz protocol is used in combination with GE’s new high-fidelity MRI gradient and RF system electronics, the MRI scanning noise is largely eliminated at its source.
Basically, it’s a software update that changes the way the scanner acquires the image.
According to GE, the typical MRI scanner generates 110 decibels of noise when it’s hard at work, which is about the same noise level as a rock concert or a steel mill. One study found that certain MRI scanners could get up to 118 decibels at their loudest point. The Silent Scanner system, which reduces the volume of the scanner to normal background noise levels, quiet enough to have a conversation over. It’s now commercially available in their 1.5T and 3.0T scanners (the T refers to the unit tesla, the way to measure the strength of a magnetic field), and has been used in a hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Listen to GE’s simulation, compared to the one above: