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A new frontier in imaging at St. Paul’s Hospital

A new frontier in imaging at St. Paul’s Hospital

August 6, 2021 at 8:47 am  BC, News, Politics

People in Vancouver now have access to a new MRI at St. Paul’s Hospital, thanks to a multi-year fundraising effort supported by many donors.

The machine became operational at the hospital on June 14, 2021, and is already having a tremendous impact on patient care.

“By having a new 3T MRI at St. Paul’s Hospital, we’re able to make great strides in cutting down wait lists for people and deliver services faster, better and closer to home,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “I’m very glad to see the results of eight years of hard work by many come to light and benefit people in Vancouver, helping them get the diagnostics they need to move on with their lives, families and careers.”

Eight years in the making, donors ultimately raised $4.1 million of the $6.6-million project cost for a new 3T MRI.

The new 3T MRI improves patient care on many levels. It provides faster scans and better image quality than the hospital’s two older machines, both more than 10 years old. With increased capacity, it is cutting down on wait times for patients. MRI is very safe and does not use radiation.

“Having access to technology like the 3T MRI is fantastic news for patients,” said Spencer Chandra-Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West-End. “We’ve seen through the past few months dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 how crucial top-of-the-line diagnostics are, and this new MRI will help with advancing research, which is a big win for St. Paul’s and for British Columbians.”

Another major benefit is the 3T MRI’s application in research, into diseases such as post-COVID-19 syndrome, which may include a range of troubling physical symptoms, such as: severe fatigue and increased risk of damage to the heart, lungs and brain; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD; cystic fibrosis; asthma; and pulmonary fibrosis.

The machine’s advanced technology enables clinicians and researchers to evaluate not only a patient’s lung disease progression, but also the effect of therapy and medications on the disease.

Looking toward the future, St. Paul’s will be able to use the 3T MRI to transform the way doctors and researchers study diseases of the lung and heart, as well as other diseases, with the promise of new breakthroughs in therapies and diagnostics.

MRI is one of the gold standards in medical imaging. It lets practitioners see the body’s soft tissue, from ligaments and tendons, to the body’s most complex regions such as the brain, spinal cord and heart. It is widely used in cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, intensive care and other areas to diagnose a range of complex pathologies and conditions.

This announcement builds on the Province’s multi-year Surgical and Diagnostic Imaging Strategy to improve access and reduce wait times and leverage capacity in the public health-care system. The strategy has seen 247,106 exams performed and two suites added in 2020-21. The positive results will continue to be built upon in coming years.


Dr. Jonathon Leipsic, director of medical imaging and regional department head at Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care

“This 3T MRI is not an overnight story, it’s really eight years in development. We do thousands of MRIs every year. With this 3T magnet, we’ll be able to offer more robust imaging of the brain, image for many muscular-skeletal conditions and really innovate in the cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary spaces.

“Our new 3T MRI will provide unique opportunities for research across all body systems but will really transform our capacity to investigate lung and heart conditions. The polarized gas program we are setting up will be the first of its kind in Western Canada, providing a powerful tool to pair with the tremendous bench and clinical research emanating from our Centre for Heart Lung Innovation.”

Dr. Darra Murphy, head, Department of Radiology, Providence Health Care —

“As a tertiary referral centre, we look after some of the most complex cardiac patients in the province. Some of our patients require long examinations that take two or three hours, involving multiple breath-holds, which can leave the patient quite exhausted. With this technology, we can do single breath-hold imaging that will really transform the quality of the imaging and the patient experience.”

Dick Vollet, president and CEO, St. Paul’s Foundation —

“None of this promise and success would be possible without our donors. Many people and organizations have stepped forward to make this life-changing 3T MRI a reality at St. Paul’s Hospital. In particular, we’d like to thank our four lead donors to this campaign: Cindy Liao; Sydney and Joanne Belzberg; Arnold and Anita Silber; and the estate of William John Halchuk.”

Learn More:

For a brief video of the new MRI, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RwdXqUxab8

To see photos of the new MRI, visit: https://ln4.sync.com/dl/93c7cb490/jcaac4rm-etc4yjd3-7rjrmwzj-zakxqnwu

To view A Commitment to Surgical Renewal in B.C., visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2020HLTH0026-000830

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