New MRI machine in Steamboat Springs makes scans more comfortable |

New MRI machine in Steamboat Springs makes scans more comfortable

— Inside a dimly lit medical room on Monday afternoon, the MRI machine that held up James Chapman’s arm made a loud clicking noise for several minutes as it slowly scanned his elbow.

Chapman didn’t hear any of this clatter though. He was laying comfortably in a modern leather recliner with his eyes closed as he listened to contemporary Christian music on Pandora.

MRI units usually evoke visions of a person sitting uncomfortably still in a small tube.

But at Orthopedics of Steamboat Springs, the word MRI now conjures up scenes of people like Chapman laying back in a chair as they take advantage of the office’s new extremity MRI machine.

The GE Optima MR430s is no ordinary piece of equipment.

It’s also rare.

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Stephen Veals, a consultant for Orthopedics of Steamboat Springs, said the new MRI unit is one of only two in the state of Colorado.

He said the local practice invested in the new technology to better accommodate its patients.

"Everything about it is exciting," he said. "It’s very positive for a community of any size. But it’s especially positive for an active community like this. And you don’t have to go to Denver."

The machine, which was installed in June, became a reality after nine months to a year of design and engineering.

Because of the high magnetic field the MRI unit produces, the office underwent a remodel to accommodate it. It also had to be certified by a physicist.

Veals said the new extremity MRI unit uses the same 1.5 Tesla strength magnet used in full body MRI units, so it provides the same image quality.

It also is less expensive than the traditional full-body scanner, he said.

He said usually patients can have access to the new MRI machine on the same day they visit the doctor for an injury.

Getting an MRI on an arm, elbow, wrist, hand, ankle and foot isn’t a claustrophobic experience in the new model as it requires only the limb to be inside the machine.

MRI technologist Janelle Buccino explains that instead of having to position people like Superman in a full-body scanner to scan the inside of an arm, she now simply places their arm in a tube as they sit in a recliner.

"It’s been a great tool for the doctors," Buccino said. "It really has increased patient satisfaction."

Veals joked the biggest worry about the new machine is patients falling asleep when they use it.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

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