Vertical MRIs: more comfortable, accurate

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Nice options: Vertical Plus MRI in Hazel Crest offers options that allow patients to sit, stand, bend, lean or lie down while have the MRI done. | Supplied photo

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A fairly new type of MRI has done away with the uneasy feeling patients have of being in an enclosed space.

Hazel Crest-based Vertical Plus MRI of America claims one of the Midwest’s few diagnostic imaging alternatives — one that offers a more comfortable, familiar setting.

The nine-year-old company offers a vertical MRI option – the Upright MRI, or Stand-up MRI – that allows patients to sit, stand and even watch television in a more open environment while being treated.

“The architecture of this machine is that you walk in and then have the opportunity to sit or stand,” Vertical Plus spokesman Bill Ruder said.

Opened by a collective of local orthopedic surgeons convinced that weight bearing and positional MRI scanning offered critical diagnostic benefits, Vertical Plus has delivered a more calming MRI experience for hundreds of patients since its 2004 debut.

Much like a traditional MRI scanner in which patients lay down, the Upright MRI provides head-to-toe imaging of anything muscular or skeletal, including the brain, back, knees, spine or feet. With its multi-positional scanning ability, however, the vertical imaging machine allows patients to sit, stand, bend, lean or even lie down in the position that will best highlight the body’s particular trouble area, thereby producing a more accurate diagnosis.

More precise information

For instance, the Upright MRI allows the patient to sit and the spine to be imaged with the normal weight of the body activated, something that is not accomplished during the conventional MRI. In addition to being a more comfortable experience for the patient, Ruder touts this more dynamic, symptom-specific imaging option as one that will produce a more complete and detailed study.

“Since we’re upright and scanning a particular area of the body, we’re able to get more precise information on the injury and more revealing pathology,” said Ruder, whose own wife recently underwent a lumbar MRI that revealed a herniated disk as the source of her persistent leg pain.

With nothing in front of one’s face, the Upright MRI machine eliminates the enclosed feeling that frustrates so many about the traditional MRI. Furthermore, vertical imaging accommodates patients who struggle in recumbent scanners, such as those who have difficulty lying in the prone position, and patients require no sedation. Following a scan, results are sent to physicians within 24 hours.

“The Upright MRI is simply a friendlier, quieter and more comfortable experience for patients,” Ruder said.

A hidden asset

While vertical MRIs have been around for more than 20 years, they remain a small slice of the medical imaging landscape. In fact, the United States hosts fewer than 200 vertical MRI machines from Fonar, the experienced New York-based company that manufactures the innovative imaging machines, including the one at Vertical Plus in Hazel Crest.

Ruder said that many physicians — and certainly patients — remain unaware of the alternative.

“Given the constraints on physicians’ time, it’s simply difficult to get in front of that group and educate them on this other imaging option,” Ruder said.

Though the traditional recumbent scanner will undoubtedly remain the dominant choice given its prevalence across the local medical landscape and the fact that a good number of patients have no fear of enclosed spaces or trouble lying down, Ruder and his Vertical Plus colleagues remain eager to highlight the benefits of vertical imaging.

“We’ve long had an effort to educate physicians, but now is the time to educate the public and let them know that this alternative exists,” Ruder said, adding that there is “not a penny’s difference” in cost between the conventional recumbent scanner and the Upright MRI.

More information about Vertical Plus MRI of America, is at or (708) 799-4940.