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Quenching infographic

Cautions to Avoid an MRI Magnet Quench

Cautions to Avoid an MRI Magnet Quench

Anyone involved with medical imaging knows that the death sentence to an MRI can be spoken in a single phrase; a phrase so frightening that it sends shivers down the spines of radiologists and healthcare finance directors everywhere. We are talking about an MRI magnet quench. This event is so catastrophic, it could potentially cause injuries and cost a medical practice or diagnostic imaging center tens of thousands of dollars in the worst-case scenario.

In order to help your facility avoid this costly mistake, the Altima Diagnostic Imaging Solutions (Altima DIS) team has put together information on how quenching happens, the risks associated, and ways to avoid an MRI magnet quench in general. Read on to learn how to potentially spare your practice or imaging center immeasurable losses from MRI equipment failure.

How Quenching Happens

In case you’re new to quenching, this type of incident occurs when helium rapidly escapes (or is released in a controlled shutdown) from an MRI system, causing an extreme temperature imbalance to the magnetic coils within the system. This “explosive venting” of cryogenic fluids and gases disrupts the magnetic field that allows an MRI to operate, potentially destroying the magnet itself.

Quenching incidents occur due to the following reasons:

  • MRI Emergency stop

In the case of an emergency, staff may need to press the red “Magnet Stop” button. The only reason to press the “Magnet Stop” button is in the case when the patient is trapped in the MRI system and in danger.

  • System Malfunction

When an MRI system malfunctions, fluids and gases (helium/oxygen) can build up and explode/leak inside of an MRI room. This causes cryogen gases to evaporate quickly, causing a near-immediate loss of superconductivity in the magnet.

MRI Quenching Risks

The consequences of an MRI quench can be extremely dangerous, as the freezing temperatures associated with liquid helium (-452.2 degrees Fahrenheit) and oxygen displacement with helium gas could potentially cause asphyxiation or frostbite to any persons in the imaging room.

Secondary to the risk of human injury is the innate risks to the MRI hardware itself. Once a quench begins, damage to the internal components and coils can damage the electromagnet permanently, and this can be very costly.

MRI Quench Costs

Financially speaking, an MRI magnet quench can create weeks of downtime, potentially costing a medical practice:

  • Lost revenue resulting from scan cancellations
  • Repair costs to fix magnetic/superconducting coils, re-energizing magnet, helium refilling
  • Entire replacement cost of a quenched MRI system 

As noted, these costs can go up drastically as downtime continues, resulting in potentially even millions of dollars.

Proper Safety Precautions to Prevent Quenching

When it comes to avoiding an MRI magnet quench, having proper safety protocols are key. Be sure your imaging center is doing the following to keep your MRI machine  functioning properly:

  • Provide thorough training to all staff that has access to the MRI system. Ensure that training includes knowing when to use the “EPO” (Emergency Power Off) button vs. the “Magnet Stop” button.
  • Use cryogen level sensors like oxygen and helium monitors to avoid a quench. Always refill or de-energize the magnet if low cryogen levels are indicated on the sensors as oxygen displacement during quench is a serious concern. 
  • Use magnetic supervision to monitor the pressures and temperatures within your MRI system.
  • Keep all metal objects (furniture included) away from the MRI and its strong magnetic field. This prevents accidental damage to a system from objects being attracted to the magnet.
  • Institute strict rules on door closing to avoid any tampering or interference with the MRI and its magnetic field.

Get a Proper Preventative Maintenance Service Plan + Remote System Monitoring

One of the most effective methods to avoid the occurrence of an MRI magnet quench is to implement a regular preventive maintenance service plan that includes remote system monitoring.

At Altima DIS, we service Siemens MRI systems to help with repair/replacement, helium maintenance, 24/7 remote system monitoring, and more to keep your equipment running at full capacity.

With our remote system monitoring, we’ll help track your diagnostic imaging center’s:

  • Helium levels
  • Magnet shield temperatures
  • Coldhead performance
  • Compressor status
  • Chiller water temperature & flow
  • And much more…

Finally, by using our 24/7 remote system monitoring, we can flag and plan repairs for any issue your MRI equipment may encounter long before you even know an issue has occurred.

Proper MRI System Security

To avoid any interference, accidents, or tampering with your MRI system, proper security policies, staff, and protocols are incredibly important.

Some basic security policy suggestions include:

  • Equip cleaning crews with the proper non-magnetic cleaning equipment
  • Don’t press the “Magnet Stop” unless the situation meets protocol
  • Don’t allow terminated employees to have access to the MRI room
  • Don’t allow law enforcement or anyone who is armed into the MRI room (magnetic material from weapons can easily be drawn into the machine, causing the magnet to quench)

Use Proper Helium-Venting Equipment

Make sure your cryogen gases and fluids do not build pressure with proper monitoring of helium and oxygen levels. It should be reiterated that the resulting danger of an accidental quench includes a risk of asphyxiation or frostbite to patients or medical staff in the area during such an event.

How to React When You Have to Quench

On the off chance your diagnostic imaging center is ever required to enact an emergency quench, it’s important to have a proper “Code Red” procedure in place to ensure the safety of everyone in the MRI building.

A Code Red procedure like this should include notes on:

  • Protocol for pressing the EPO button vs. the Magnet Stop button
  • Emergency alarms and phone calls to make
  • Proper use of fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems
  • Evacuation plan

Protecting Your Investment

While there are few rare scenarios in which quenching can’t be avoided, most often, proper maintenance and sound procedures will protect your investment. A regular preventative maintenance plan, paired with proper safety and security best practices for diagnostic imaging rooms, can help keep your imaging center running smoothly for years to come.

From fueling diagnostic imaging centers to providing industry partners with the technical expertise needed, Altima DIS is the company to call for Siemens MRI preventative maintenance to keep your machines running in tip-top shape. With over 100 years of collective expertise providing dependable, competitive service, we can empower your business with on-demand service and unmatched technical knowledge.

Experience the Altima Advantage for yourself and give us a call at 972-382-5533 or contact us.

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