The MRI sustainability life cycle

In a world of finite resources, the med-tech industry needs to consider sustainability in all phases of a product’s life cycle – without compromising on product quality. In this process, products must be designed with circularity in mind starting with the design stage to extend their life cycle as far as possible.
Philipp Grätzel von Grätz
Published on June 20, 2023
The main components of magnetic resonance imaging are the magnet, the gradient coils, the radio frequency coils, the local coils, the patient table, the electronics and, of course, the cover. Optimal, circuit-optimized system design facilitates uncomplicated component replacement and eliminates the need to disassemble the entire system. “Components that can be easily replaced are potentially repairable,” says Martin Vitzthum, the head of Process Planning for Coils at the Siemens Healthineers Magnetic Resonance Imaging Unit.
Repairability is an essential aspect of the circular economy and should not be neglected under any circumstances.
Life cycle_MRI
<p>When developing components, engineers are always thinking about whether components can be repaired and whether this can be done in a way that conserves resources and lower costs. The result is frequently a win-win situation.&nbsp;</p><p>“This is why we offer repair services for a broad spectrum of MRI components, especially local coils, but also electronics and patient tables,” says Norbert Gebhardt, the head of the Local Coils Production team at Siemens Healthineers in Erlangen. This philosophy pays off in another way as well: “Repairing helps us learn how customers use our coils. If certain problems occur again and again, the product will be modified so that customers have a better product in the end,” Gebhardt says. Quality, in other words, has its very own sustainability dimension to it because components that require fewer repairs will need fewer transports and less (re)packaging.</p>
<p>It is important to explore several ways to limit the amount of raw materials required for the systems and to extend the service life of the scanners. One essential aspect is the on-site upgrade service offered for many MRI scanners.</p><p>Let’s say that a medical center has a MRI system that was first introduced in 2003. This system can be “rejuvenated” in the hospital where it operates and turned into a scanner that is one or even two generations younger. The sustainability dimension of this on-site upgrade service is often overlooked, says Lars Drüppel, the Vice President for Product Lifecycle Management at Siemens Healthineers. It enables a customer who needs a more up-to-date MRI system to avoid purchasing a completely new system. Such an option eliminates the need for energy-intensive shipping as well as the extensive work that is required to assemble a new system. “We keep potential upgrades in mind for every MRI that we sell,” Drüppel says.</p>
<p>"It takes two to three weeks to upgrade an MRI scanner on-site," says Jan Chudzik, the Head of Installed Base Business MRI at Siemens Healthineers. This is a fraction of the time needed to install a new device. Less downtime is an important reason for the upgrades. A user can get back to business as usual faster by deciding to upgrade an older system and not purchase a new one.</p><p>During an upgrade, virtually every component in the old MRI is dismantled, except the magnet. The magnet can be left on-site because it is extremely durable.</p>
<p>At some point, though, it makes sense and is advisable to invest in a new system. For example, when an institution wants to further improve the patient experience or if a facility wants to perform more interventional procedures and therefore needs a system with a larger bore. Such needs do not mean the end of the pre-owned system.&nbsp;</p>
Find out in the second installment of our series how a holistic circular economy can be successful and how pre-owned equipment is given a new lease of life – one that makes it just as good as new.

By Philipp Grätzel von Grätz

Philipp Grätzel von Grätz lives and works as a freelance medical journalist in Berlin. His specialties are digitalization, technology, and cardiovascular therapy.