New MRI system installed at Keesler Medical Center

  • Published
  • By Steve Pivnick
  • 81st Medical Group Public Affairs
Crews are currently completing installation of Keesler Medical Center's new magnetic resonance imaging equipment and look to have it complete in January at Keesler AFB.

It replaces the MRI destroyed by Hurricane Katrina's devastating storm surge Aug. 29, 2005.

A 13-ton magnet, the heart of the system, was delivered Dec. 4. Placing it in the new location, on the medical center's first floor, was a complex matter. A crew from Machinery Movers out of New Orleans had to lift it with a crane and delicately place it on special railing through a hole cut in the medical center's north wall. The riggers then slid the magnet into place and lowered it to the floor.

The Keesler installation is being done in about half the time it normally takes to complete similar jobs, said Michael Alexander, project manager for installations for General Electric Healthcare Technologies and the system's manufacturer.

"It typically takes eight to 13 weeks," Mr. Alexander said. "This will be completed in roughly four weeks."

The new MRI should be available for patients sometime in January.

Mr. Alexander gave credit for the "quick turn" to D'Iberville's Caffey, Inc., the contractor responsible for installing the equipment.

"They're getting everything done super-quickly. They're working very long hours, seven days a week, to make it work," he said.

Mr. Alexander said the new MRI magnet is twice as powerful as the one it replaced.

"It's 3 tesla (term used to describe magnetic-field strength)," he explained. "The previous magnet was 1.5 tesla. It may be the only 3-tesla unit in any Air Force medical facility. This unit and one at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg are probably the only 3-tesla systems in Mississippi."

Installation of the new MRI is part of the "move up" plan initiated as a result of the damage Hurricane Katrina inflicted on the medical center's high-value medical equipment, formerly located in the facility's basement, or ground floor.

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