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How to Move a Permanent Magnet MRI Machine… Safety First!

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A permanent magnet MRI machine has many advantages, including low maintenance costs, no reliance on helium, and minimal electricity requirements. But, it also has a powerful magnetic field that cannot be “turned off”.

When installed in a properly shielded MRI suite, a permanent magnet poses no risk to people or equipment outside the scan room. Removing and transporting a permanent MRI magnet, however, requires special provisions to protect people and equipment. 

Safe Magnet Transportation

If you are involved in removing, relocating, or installing a permanent magnet MRI, be sure you are working with teams who know how to properly and safely handle them! Models like the Hitachi Airis II and Airis Elite, Siemens Magnetom Open C, GE Ovation, or Philips Panorama all fall into this same category of caution.

What are the dangers?

Danger to People – Improper shielding can create opportunities for nearby metal items to be pulled into the magnet. Anyone unfortunate enough to be between those items and the magnet could find their body or limbs in a pinch, literally. Remember, lots of folks will handle the system downstream of your site!

Danger to Computer Equipment – The powerful force of these magnets can erase data and critical code if they're brought to close to computers. An experienced MRI engineer will ensure that the magnet is isolated or moved at a safe distance from sensitive computer equipment during removal and when loaded into a truck or shipping container. 

Danger to Your Wallet – Permanent magnets have been known to wipe out the data on bank cards, hotel keys, or anything else that uses a magnetic strip on the back. Leave your wallet, keys, and cell phone in a safe place.

Danger to the Unsuspecting Public – It would be unfortunate if a permanent magnet were to interfere with an innocent bystander’s pacemaker. The magnetic field travels with the magnet. Even when it’s off your property, in a truck and heading down the road, such safety problems are possible if the magnet is not protected properly.

How do I protect myself and others?

Traditionally, a custom-made, steel-lined wood crate or transport box is built to reduce or eliminate the possibility of magnetic pull affecting anything in close proximity. These specialized shipping crates can cost around $10,000. 

Another creative solution is to wrap any permanent magnet MRI more than .2T in strength in silicon steel sheeting. These sheets are type M36 silicon steel, typically 10’-12’ long by 4’-5’ wide and 20-26 gauge thick. Each sheet weighs about 50 lbs. They are simply placed around the face of the magnet (with covers off first and wrapped in a protective hardboard material) one at a time, one sheet placed directly over the previous sheet, until the magnetic field is dissipated enough. You'll know you've got it when you can no longer get additional steel sheets to stick.

The Takeaway

Does your MRI engineer know how to safely move a permanent magnet MRI system? If not, call the Block Imaging project management team. We’d be happy to help!

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