Vertu Medical The Cost of an MRI ScannerA Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scanner is one of the most essential pieces of diagnostic equipment within any imaging department. An MRI scanner works by employing powerful magnets that when the radio frequency is turned off, produce a strong magnetic field that forces protons in the body to realign with the magnetic field. This allows investigation of organs and structures inside the body. They are widely used by health care professionals for the detection of a variety of medical issues and are particularly useful for examining the brain and spinal cord for conditions such as brain tumours, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, dementia and developmental anomalies etc.

When considering the purchase of an MRI Scanner, the first question that our clients often ask is ‘what is an MRI Scanner going to cost me’? This is not a straightforward question to answer as MRI Scanner systems can range from £25,000 to exceeding £500,000. The cost of your chosen MRI Scanner system will really depend upon the proposed medical investigations that will be undertaken, plus other factors such as field strength. For example, low field MRI Scanners (which come at a lower cost) will only be able to perform extremity scans, therefore, if you require an MRI Scanner for more specialised diagnostics, a high field MRI Scanner will be required which will accordingly be more expensive. Factors such as gradient strength, channels, slew rate and of course the year of manufacture will also be an influence upon the cost of an MRI Scanner.

In this article we will look at the factors to be considered that will lead you to the correct answer as to the question of the cost of an MRI Scanner for your medical facility:

Low field open MRI scanners

Low field open MRI scanners are a good option where medical investigations are predominantly upon extremities or not upon deep tissue. This makes these scanners ideal for scanning within orthopaedic facilities or in small clinical areas. The reason for this is that some low field open MRI scanners such as the Esaote C-Scan, do not require additional shielding, so making them ideal for installation in a small area.

As their name implies, low field open MRI scanners have no confining cylinder like the closed high field MRI system. They comprise of disc-shaped scanning magnets on mounts at the top and bottom of the machine. As they are open on all four sides, low field open MRI scanners are ideal for use with larger patients, those that suffer with claustrophobia, or those that feel uneasy in the scanning process as they allow scanning standing on the feet. This also has the advantage of releasing pressure on the patient’s spine and generally results in clearer images.

Generally speaking, the majority of low field open MRI Scanners use permanent magnets, this means that they are “always at field”. This factor also makes them the perfect choice for clinical situations where there is a lack of power and/or liquid helium (which is utilised in used in higher-closed field MRI Scanners), it is prohibitively costly or not readily available. However as they are ‘always at field’ these low field open MRI Scanners are typically very heavy. And even though these scanners do not involve the complications of dealing with exit pathways, potential quenching and cryogens; crating, containers, and craning can all add to the cost of the low field open bore MRI scanner and can be complicated. Issues with the exit pathway always exist with all MRI Scanner systems, but it is especially an issue with low field open bore MRI scanners due to the weight involved. That said, low field open bore MRI Scanners are way cheaper to purchase than closed higher-field MRI Scanners. They are renowned for being highly durable and having very low maintenance costs if correctly maintained in comparison to closed higher field MRI Scanners.

Low field open scanners include the 0.2T, 0.3T, and 0.4T MRIs (T referring to Tesla measure). With the 0.2T MRI Scanners the image quality is relatively low and they do require longer scan times, and these are the cheapest MRI Scanners on the market. For example, the 0.2T low field open MRI scanners are the most economical to purchase with the more basic systems that scan extremities being priced at between £25,000 and £75,000. Full body low field open MRI scanners are in the price range of £75,000 to £110,000. Of course if you wish to buy a low field open MRI scanner which has movable magnets that will allow scanning of patients whilst they are standing up, then a model such as the Esaote G-Scan is ideal and will attract a slight higher price of up to £130,000. Moving up to the more powerful 0.3T or 0.4T low field open MRI scanners used for full body examinations, the price will almost double being in the range of £190,000 to £290,000. For newer models that are capable of “true” fat saturation such as the Aperto or Airis Elite from Hitachi or the Siemens Magnetom C 0.35T the price will increase further.

Closed high field MRI scanners

High-field closed MRI scanning systems are the original MRI Scanners that emerged back in the late 1970s. They are the most powerful systems available utilising higher Tesla strength which gives a stronger magnetic field giving it the ability to take more detailed, higher-quality images. This makes the scans easier to read and interpret and means that these high-field MRI scanning systems can be used on scans investigating deep tissues and even individual pinched nerve fibres. It can take up to 90 minutes to complete a scan depending upon the strength of the magnets and the images required, for instance a brain scan will not take as long as a full-body scan.

Designs of current high-field closed MRI scanning systems have not altered changed much since their original conception – they remain a closed cylindrical space that a patient is slid into and scanned. This can have the disadvantage of making some patients feel claustrophobic, and obese or large patients may not fit in the closed MRI Scanner, plus children that must be scanned may not be able to stay still. In addition these MRI Scanners are very noisy which can disturb some patients.

As high-field closed MRI scanning systems are helium-cooled, maintenance costs will be higher than low field open MRI scanners, and they do command a much higher price. High-field closed MRI Scanners usually have a cylinder or bore size of 60 centimetres, which is considered the standard size but there are variations with a bore size of 70 centimetres which are referred to as ‘wide-bore MRI Scanners’ and again this variation will command a price increase.

With the pricing of high-field closed MRI scanning systems the year of manufacture has a significant part to play. 1.5T high-field closed MRI scanners manufactured between the years 2000 and 2006 for example will attract a price of around £30,000 to £150,000. Whereas for those manufactured from 2008 to 2012, the price increases significantly to approximately £240,000. For 3T high-field closed MRI scanning systems (which have a magnetic field twice the strength of the 1.5T high-field closed MRI models and more than 15 times the strength of low-field open MRI Scanners) scanners manufactured pre 2006 will cost in the region of £190,000, and for those made after 2008 these will attract a considerably higher premium price of £390,000 to £500,000. The great advantage of 3T MRI high-field closed MRI scanning systems machine is that image noise is reduced and they are excellent for capturing even the finest details such as vessels of the heart and brain.

Additional factors that will influence the cost of an MRI Scanner

Helium Zero Boil-Off

When considering the purchase of an MRI Scanner, it is important to know that a healthy cooling system is vital to the performance and maintenance of the magnet. Keeping an eye on the helium level (amongst other factors) and ensuring that refills are made at the correct time is essential. The invention of zero boil-off helium based MRI scanning systems has massively assisted this as this means that the need re-fill helium into your MRI Scanner system has been reduced to only every five years. However, whilst this concept may sound attractive, the purchase cost of such a system is significantly higher then you would pay for a supply of helium which means that it would take many years to close the gap between costings. But if this does appeal to you then it is useful to know that GE has been providing zero boil-off MRI Scanner systems since 2002.

Very recently, Phillips have designed the highly innovative ’ Philips BlueSeal’ which is a fully sealed magnet designed to simplify the installation of your MRI scanner and to also reduce expensive and time consuming disruptions in MRI services, and also to assist the transition to sustainable helium-free operations.

Finding refurbished zero boil-off MRIs is not easy and is very dependent upon your budget and requirements.

Image Quality

Gradient strength and capability reflect directly on the image quality. As mentioned above, Toshiba, Siemens and Philips have possibly the best offerings in the second-hand MRI scanner market with enhanced features that focus upon achieving the best image quality which is particularly required in cardiac applications.

Wide Bores

MRI Scanners with wide bores provide MRI Scanner operators with enhanced freedom in the scanning room and also provide a much higher Field of View (FOV). Patient comfort is also enhanced due to the fact that the diameter of opening of the MRI scanner is far wider than. Wide bore MRI Scanners are manufactured by GE, Toshiba and Siemens. Toshiba makes the largest bore available in the market for used MRIs with the 1.5T 71cm Vantage Titan which uses ultra-short magnets to allow the majority of scans tests to be performed with the patient’s feet first. The design of the gantry also helps to lower patient anxiety and the addition of their Pianissimo hardware solution has also reduced acoustic noise in each scan. GE also offers the Optima™ MR450w system which is acknowledged as delivering ‘productivity with uncompromised magnet technology and extreme accessibility’. Built on a fully redesigned MR platform with 1.5T field strength, this MRI scanner offers a range of new and advanced functionality capabilities for wide bore MRI. It delivers to clinicians uncompromised image quality and high productivity from an expansive 50 cm field of view. Due to its affordable cost and capabilities this scanner it is the ideal option for those looking to purchase their first and only wide bore MRI scanner, and also for those who are more established in the use of MRI scanners but require a hard working yet versatile system.

Coil Type

The coil type of an MRI Scanner is another factor that will determine its cost. Coils with more channels will be more expensive with the highest priced coils belong in the category 16 – 32 channel coils. The 4 – 8 channel coils are less expensive hence why the greater the number of channels the coil has the higher the price that you will pay for the MRI Scanner.

Slew Rate and Gradient Strength

The term slew rate refers to the speed at which a gradient can be turned on and off, defined as the maximum gradient strength of the gradient divided by the rise time. As MRI imaging results from magnetic field gradients created by magnetic gradient coils, the performance and quality of a gradient coil directly impacts upon the quality and resolution of the image produced by the scan. The slew rate is therefore a very important specification of a gradient coil as well as the gradient strength which acts to overcome the inductance of the coil. The slew rate is important in defining the maximum scan speed of the MRI Scanner system.

Gradient strength is measured in millitesla per meter (mT/m). Slew rate is measured in a similar way, but in miliseconds (mT/m/ms). The stronger that both of these factors are then the clearer the image will be that is produced by the MRI Scanner. This is an important consideration set against the type of application that you wish to perform with your chosen MRI Scanner. For example, cardiac applications require higher gradient strength than an orthopaedic application would and generally MRI Scanners with higher gradient strength and higher slew rates are more expensive, therefore this increased capability will be reflected in the an increased cost for the MRI Scanner.

Maximum gradient strength is measured in units of millitesla per metre (mT/m), rise time is measured in milliseconds, and slew rate is measured in tesla per metre per second (T/m/s). Typical figures for slew rates range between 50 T/m/s for lower field permanent scanners, up to around 200 T/m/s for high field superconducting scanners.

As you will gather from this article, there are many factors that determine the cost of an MRI Scanner. However the over-riding factor has to be the correlation between clinical applications and the capability of the MRI Scanner and this will determine the budget as some of the higher priced features you may not even need. In addition it is also important to remember that the cost of installation and maintenance needs to be taken into consideration when determining your budget for the purchase of an MRI Scanner for your clinical facility. At Vertu Medical our team of experts are happy to provide you with the very best advice regarding the cost of an MRI Scanner. Please get in touch by calling +44 (0)208 392 5161 or email: We look forward to hearing from you.