Benefits of Using an Open MRI vs. Closed

Open MRIs offer a variety of benefits for many imaging centers

Very few patients are thrilled to get an MRI scan, and, honestly, we can understand why. An hour of claustrophobia in a 60cm-wide, tube-like enclosure is not a pleasant thought!

Closed MRI - Siemens MAGNETOM Trio 3.0T

To provide better care for patients, many imaging centers have opted for open MRI systems.

Compared with the donut-shaped, closed systems, the benefits of open MRI machines can include:

  • Higher levels of patient comfort
  • Reduced claustrophobia and patient-size concerns
  • Increased patient scan volume
  • Greater ease when placing critical body parts directly under the magnet
  • Lower upfront and maintenance costs

When considering open MRI vs. closed systems, remember that the needs of your radiology department should determine the most useful MRI scanner.

We'll discuss some of the advantages associated with open MRIs below, but first, it's helpful to evaluate the chief controversy in the open vs. closed debate: magnet strength and quality of imaging.


Tesla Strength in Open vs. Closed Systems

The Tesla (T) measurement in the MRI world refers to the strength of a scanner's magnetic field. In general, closed MRIs boast 1.5T to 3.0T. Open MRIs generally range from 0.3T to 0.7T, with some systems reaching 1.2T.

This difference in strength is often a deal-breaker.

But there's a kicker — the quality of a diagnostic exam doesn't depend on T strength alone. For most types of MR exams, the keys to a successful test include:

  1. A system that meets the physical needs of the patient
  2. Updated software and hardware
  3. Extensively trained technicians

Also, it can help to think of T strength like the engine of a car. Imagine the open bore MRI as a V6 Honda Accord, for instance, and the closed MRI as a V12 Ferrari. In some situations, it's useful to have the roaring power of the Ferrari, but often, the Honda Accord gets you where you need to go.


Patient Comfort and Scan Volume


Open MRI - Siemens MAGNETOM C 0.35T

From the narrow bore (often measuring 60 cm) to the tube-like, "buried-alive" enclosure, patient comfort seriously lacks with many (but not all) closed MRI systems.

In fact, a lot of people experience claustrophobia for the first time during an MR exam. Moreover, some patients, including overweight and stockier patients, are simply unable to fit inside the bore.

With many types of open systems, such as the Siemens Magnetom C 0.35T pictured to the right, a patient passes through a space that is open on two to three sides. This wide-open design allows patients to look around the exam room, watch a television, or, when scanning children, remain near family or friends.


Imaging Benefits of Open MRIs

Patient comfort is well and good, but MRIs aren't designed for accommodating the needs of every patient. Radiologists and other medical personnel must be able to rely on their MRI for high-quality imaging that optimizes diagnostic precision.

Image A is 1.5T; Image B is 3.0T. Source:

However, if the scan doesn't call for deep tissue imaging, then the lower power of open MRIs shouldn't be a problem. Open MRIs will often elicit diagnostically sufficient magnetic resonance imaging for many types of exams, including:

  • Head exams for signs of tumors, aneurysms, nerve injuries or damage caused by stroke
  • Heart exams for clear images of heart muscles, valves, and blood vessels
  • Chest exams for signs of lung and breast cancer
  • Circulatory system exams for signs of blocked or torn blood vessels
  • Abdominal exams for tumors or infection in the liver, pancreas, bladder, gallbladder, and kidneys
  • Pelvic exams of uterus, ovaries, and prostate
  • Bone and joint exams for signs of arthritis and torn ligaments
  • Spinal exams for tumors and bulging discs

The open design also provides more options in patient positioning, often allowing critical body parts to be scanned without causing undue discomfort to the patient.

And as any radiologist will tell you, a more comfortable patient is a stiller, calmer patient, and reduced patient movement is ideal when avoiding costly, repeated MRI exams.


Cost Benefits of Open MRIs

The last major advantage of open MRIs is their costs. Despite some exceptions, open systems are cost-effective with lower upfront and maintenance costs.

One reason for this is the cryogen-free design and the use of permanent magnets. These characteristics are ideal if the local power isn't very clean or liquid helium isn't readily available (or if it's highly expensive). Also, this means that the system requires less engineering manpower during installation and tedious service.

From the decreased full-service costs - sometimes saving up to 40 to 50% of the cost compared with the closed bore systems - to the increased patient scan volume, the open MR systems often pay for themselves in a shorter amount of time.


Putting It All Together


Philips Panorama .23T Open MRI

Comparing open and closed MRIs can be contentious, as claiming one system as "better" than the other simply depends on many factors.

Furthermore, MRI technology is continually evolving, whereas many closed MRIs are now featured with increased patient-comfort adaptations while open MRIs are getting stronger (in terms of T strength) every year.

Considering an open or a closed MRI scanner? We at PrizMED Imaging know the decision is certainly intimidating. To speak with a technician about which type of MRI is right for you, contact us online or call us today at 440-414-7539.