“You can’t always get what you want...” sang the Rolling Stones (quick… what year/what album?) and although they probably weren’t talking about used MRI scanners, it certainly holds true in this industry. At this time, there is no shortage of high-quality, late-model, pre-owned imaging equipment available throughout the world. If you do some proper due diligence you can save a lot of money and, in many cases a lot of time by capitalizing on these opportunities. But you can also WASTE a lot of time trying to find systems that are either not plentiful on the market yet, or in such demand that they move instantly and at inflated prices.
Here are some examples of rare used MRI machines and some viable alternatives to them if you just don’t have the time (or the money) to keep digging.
Number 5: GE Discovery 750W 3T
Substitute: GE 3T EXCITE HDXT 16-channel (or Toshiba Titan 1.5T)
The larger (70 cm) bore size and high field strength of the GE Discovery 750W alone are enough to make it a desirable system. Unfortunately, they aren't very common yet, are still rather expensive, and they tend to move quickly. If you're not one of the lucky few, you could substitute a GE 3T EXCITE HDXT 16-channel, or even its 1.5T counterpart. While 1.5T systems don't approach the strength of the Discovery. they do, however, offer plenty of strength for the majority of MRI scans.
If it's the wider bore of the Discovery that's enticing you, consider a Toshiba Titan 1.5T. It has a similar opening size and is far easier to find from used sources.
Number 4: Siemens Essenza
Substitute: GE Excite HDe
Siemens originally marketed the Essenza as a lower-priced, "economy" option and it has become quite popular worldwide (especially outside the USA). As a result, it isn’t all that easy to find one for a good price. A good alternative would be the GE EXCITE HDe. The HDe was marketed in much the same way by GE and has a smaller, one-cabinet footprint that still offers 8-channel capability.
Number 3: Philips Ingenia 1.5T
Substitute: Philips 1.5T Achieva
The Ingenia was introduced by Philips a few years ago and competes against the GE Optima 450W and Siemens Aera models primarily in the “wide bore” category. These are quite difficult to find – as you’ll see with many of the newer systems. In many cases, with the solid technology that OEMs have put onto the market in the last 5-7 years, there simply hasn’t been enough justification for many sites to do full upgrades. The Philips Achieva 1.5T is still a strong and proven system with great functionality and 8,16, and/or 32-channel RF capability. Achievas have also been around long enough that parts are much easier to locate at reasonable prices.
Number 2: Siemens Aera 1.5T
Substitute: Siemens TIM Avanto (or Siemens TIM Espree)
The Siemens Aera 1.5T (a technological “step up” from their popular Espree) still hasn’t hit the secondary market in a big way but is highly-prized and hard to find. The Siemens Avanto is easier to snag on the secondary market, has a similar interface, and (although it doesn't have the 70cm bore like the Espree) has the same field of view. You can get this in 8, 18, or 32-channel RF technology. As an alternative, though a bit more difficult to find, the 1.5T TIM Espree matches the Aera’s bore size and would be available for a lower price.
Number 1: Siemens 3T Verio
Substitute: Siemens 3T TIM Trio
As I'm writing this, the Siemens 3T Verio is perhaps the most sought-after system on the secondary market. If you do find one, be prepared to pay top dollar and lock it down fast! The wide bore size, intuitive user interface, and image quality are just a few reasons why this is still considered one of the better MRI machines ever made. A good alternative to this would be the older Siemens 3T TIM Trio. Aside from the smaller bore size (60cm vs 70cm) and an older (10K style) coldhead these are quite similar to the Verio with respect to parts replacement and coil technology at a much cheaper price.
If your timing is right and your budget has enough room in it, it's entirely possible that one of these rare systems could be yours. That's great! We love to see facilities get exactly the equipment they need. On the other hand, if the rarity of a system has you struggling to find one, or if its newness has you concerned about higher parts and service cost, consider one of the substitutions mentioned above.
As true as it is in life, so it is on the MRI market: you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes… you might find… you’ll get what you need!