New and Improved: What to Know about Advanced Imaging at South Shore Health

An MRI technologist stands next to a new MRI machine
MRI Technologist Mark MacLean with the new 1.5T MRI machine at South Shore Hospital. The new scanner is faster and has a wider bore making it more spacious and comfortable for patients. ​ ​ ​

When it comes to advanced imaging, South Shore Health has made some major advancements.

A partnership with GE has brought a new, state-of-the-art Computed Tomography (CT) scanner with “Effortless Workflow” technology to South Shore Hospital’s imaging department.

GE’s Ascend CT scanner is the second of its kind in the U.S. and uses artificial intelligence to increase efficiency, improve patient comfort, and provide superior image quality.

And that’s not the only imaging upgrade the health system has seen recently. In addition to the new 1.5-Tesla machine that opened at South Shore Hospital this spring, upgrades and software updates have been made to all of the 1.5T MRI machines, making them faster, more efficient and more comfortable for patients.

In the fall, the hospital will add two new scanners to the imaging department – GE’s Apex CT and a powerful 3T MRI machine. This top-of-the-line technology will make it possible to provide superior imaging services to more patients across the region.

Here are some more things to know about advanced imaging equipment and technology at South Shore Health.

What is an MRI and what is it used for?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a scanning machine that uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to create detailed images of the body’s organs, tissues, fluids and skeletal system.

While having an MRI scan, the magnetic field temporarily realigns water molecules in the body and the radio waves cause the aligned atoms to produce faint signals used to create cross sectional images. MRI scanners can also produce 3D images.

MRI scans are an effective, non-invasive method for doctors to examine organs, tissues and the skeletal system. The dynamic imaging produced can be used to diagnose medical problems throughout the body.

MRI of the brain is used to help doctors detect stroke, aneurysms, tumors, and traumatic injury, while imaging of the heart and blood vessels can assess the function and size of the heart’s chambers, damage due to heart attack or heart disease, aortic aneurysms and blood vessel blockages.

MRI is also used to check for tumors in other internal organs including the liver and bile ducts, kidneys, spleen, uterus, ovaries, prostate and pancreas.

Bone and joint problems such as torn ligaments from traumatic or repetitive injuries, disk abnormalities in the spine and tumors of the bones or soft tissue can also be evaluated with MRI.

MRI is also often used along with mammography to detect breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease, and those who have dense breast tissue.

What is a CT scan and how is it different from and MRI?

A computerized tomography (CT) scan is a cross-sectional X-ray providing images of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissue inside the body. 

While an MRI machine uses a magnet and radio waves to scan the body, a CT uses radiation (X-rays), in the lowest dose achievable, to work with the cells in the body to create three dimensional images.

CT scans provide doctors with more detailed information than a regular X-ray by combining a series of images from different angles and using a computer to generate cross-sectional images (slices) of areas throughout the body.  

A film crew shooting video of an advanced new CT scanner
A film crew visited South Shore Hospital in May to shoot video of the new, state-of-the-art GE Ascend CT scanner. Technologist Kara Pomroy was interviewed about the ways "Effortless Workflow" technology has made CT imaging faster and more efficient.

Often used to detect internal injuries and bleeding due to trauma, CT scans are also useful in diagnosing disease such as cancer and helping guide procedures to treat it, including biopsy, surgery and radiation therapy. It is also used to monitor the effectiveness of cancer treatment. 

CT scans may be ordered as a follow up to an X-ray to get a more detailed view of bone fractures, locate tumors and blood clots and monitor heart disease.

Both CT scans and MRIs provide views of internal body structures.  A CT scan takes less time and its imaging is less detailed than an MRI, but can be used for patients with metal implants such as a pacemaker, stent or cochlear implant that would prevent them from having an MRI.

How many MRI and CT scanners are there within the health system?

There are three 1.5T MRI machines across South Shore Health; one at South Shore Hospital, one at The Center for Orthopedics, Spine, and Sports Medicine (2 Pond Park) in Hingham and another at the Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital.

South Shore Health has four CT scanners, one at The Center for Orthopedics, Spine, and Sports Medicine and three at the hospital – including the new, advanced GE Ascend CT scanner. 

What’s new with our imaging equipment?

A lot actually.  

South Shore Hospital opened a new 1.5T MRI scanner this spring, and the MRI units across South Shore Health have been rebuilt and updated with the latest technology and software upgrades. 

A powerful new 3T MRI is being installed at the hospital and is expected to be in use by September.

GE’s revolutionary Ascend CT scanner has been in use since last December.  It uses artificial intelligence and features “Effortless Workflow” increasing speed and efficiency throughout every scan and generating crisp, detailed images.

Another new, leading-edge CT machine, GE’s Apex scanner will be installed at the hospital in the next few months and operational in October.

What does this mean for the patient experience?

More advanced diagnostic imaging equipment means better patient access to state-of-the art scanning technology.

With both physical and software upgrades, all of the MRI machines are faster -- shortening scanning time -- and more efficient and comfortable for patients. 

The newly refurbished MRIs and the new CT scanner feature a wider bore size, giving patients more space, a less claustrophobic experience and fewer interrupted scans. 

The new units also feature blanket-like “air coils,” which are more efficient and less restrictive for patients.

Using artificial intelligence, the hospital’s new GE Ascend CT scanner has proven fast and efficient while providing superior imaging, making it a powerful diagnostic tool.

Access to the health system’s first 3T MRI this fall will be another benefit to patients. With a magnet twice as powerful as the existing MRI machines, the 3T unit will be able to provide better, more detailed images even more quickly. It is expected to be particularly valuable asset in prostate exams and for neurological and rectal imaging.

The addition of new advanced imaging equipment, along with recruitment efforts underway for MRI technologists, will allow South Shore Health to expand hours at its imaging locations, and provide more availability for patients and faster scheduling of appointments.