Since zero boil off MRI Scanners are extremely expensive, it’s a good idea to understand the facts and dispel misconceptions about these systems before you buy. For example, a zero boil off MRI Scanner still requires refills of liquid helium. However, they require much less liquid helium replacement than older models.
These early generations of superconducting MRI scanners used cryogens, super cooled liquids that help create strong magnetic fields. The liquid cryogens are comprised of helium and nitrogen and “boil off “or evaporate in the atmosphere. They need periodic refills, depending on the amount of use. Because liquid helium is expensive and scarce, nitrogen is used in combination with helium in order to reduce the amount of helium needed. Nitrogen does boil off more quickly and requires more refills, so liquid cryogens are still expensive to replace.
Zero boil off MRI units were developed in the 2000’s. With these units, as the liquid helium boils off, gas goes into the condenser. It converts gaseous helium into liquid, which is circulated back into the MRI unit and reduces the need for more liquid helium. These expensive refrigeration units reduce the amount of boil off which reduces the expense of refilling. However, this doesn’t eliminate consumption of helium. This ability can add around more than $200,000 to the cost of a zero boil off unit when compared to a standard unit.
Can You Afford A Zero Boil Off MRI Unit?
Since a zero boil off unit is significantly more expensive than a standard unit, it’s important to determine if you can afford the additional expense before you buy one. Let’s compare a standard unit with a 1800L liquid helium capacity with a zero boil off unit.
The standard system will consume approximately 864 liters of liquid helium annually, or roughly $11,000 per year. Of course, helium prices do fluctuate depending on its availability and the number of exams and types of studies performed. With a zero boil off system, you only need to refill the system every 3-4 years and it costs significantly less.
Zero boil off units are much more expensive to purchase, but you will save money on helium refills. Since helium can be scarce and expensive, a zero boil off unity could be cost effective in the long run, but it does depend on your working budgets and patient volume. While a standard MRI system is less expensive upfront, it’s more expensive to operate because of the liquid helium refills.
You will need to determine if your imaging department can offset the purchase price of a zero boil off unit with the money you can save from periodic refills. However, a standard MRI unity might make sense if you have a high volume of exams, which could cover the cost of maintaining and refilling liquid helium.
Still not sure which kind of MRI system is right for you? Talk to the experts at Atlantis Worldwide. You might be surprised at how much more affordable a refurbished system can be, while still delivering the performance and service warranties you need.
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Meet the author: Vikki Harmonay