More Powerful MRI Machine Reduces Patient Trips Downstate

mri-in-roomMunson Medical Center’s 3T MRI is saving patients time and money. The machine, installed a year ago, is four times more powerful than Munson’s 1.5 MRI machines and provides clarity that previously was unavailable locally, meaning patients had to go downstate. It can be adjusted to diagnose a variety of disorders, from strokes and tumors to aneurysms, multiple sclerosis and eye or inner ear problems.

It’s especially effective at detecting areas of concern in the prostate, enabling urologists to determine where to concentrate when taking core samples for a biopsy. Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men, and second leading fatal cancer for men: One in six men will be diagnosed with it. The Prostate Cancer Foundation estimates that there are nearly three million men in the United States alone currently living with prostate cancer. A non-smoking man is more likely to develop prostate cancer than he is to develop colon, bladder, melanoma, lymphoma and kidney cancers combined.

For all those diagnosed with the disease, determining its size, location and aggressiveness is of paramount importance. That’s where the new MRI machine comes in.

Dan Fly, the system director of radiology regionally for Munson Healthcare, said it is a boon for doctors and patients, offering “exquisite soft tissue and anatomic detail.” Such detail is impossible to get with the older 1.5 MRI machines.
Fly is a proponent of the machine and its capabilities, as he’s been there himself. His father died from an aggressive strain of prostate cancer, and he himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer two weeks after his father had passed away.

“I was diagnosed five years ago,” he said. “I left (Traverse City) to get treated. We didn’t have the tools and technology. So I’m a poster child for this treatment.”

Prostate cancer is treated through a variety of means, from radiation therapy to removal of the prostate. Often the best course of action is what is called “active surveillance,” where the condition is monitored through regular PSA tests, which reflect the amount of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. Determining the amount and type of cancer through MRI-guided biopsies can help doctors determine the course of action.

Fly said this type of diagnostic tool has made the leap from cutting-edge to a standard procedure.

“It’s a navigational tool, (so doctors can) target specific lesions on the prostate. The MRI changes how you can diagnose and treat cancer. I think this is going to be the expected procedure, the normal (option).”

Dr. Daniel Flewelling of Bay Area Urology agrees with Fly.

“MRI use has skyrocketed in the world of urology,” he said.

He recommends it for use with patients when he believes there’s utility in looking for specific areas to target for a biopsy.

Fly said the acquisition of the 3T MRI is in keeping with Munson’s mission.

“We want to provide healthcare close to home. We are trying to provide (treatment) to patients so they don’t have to go to Grand Rapids or U of M. It’s something we should have close to home.”

The MRI cost $2 million, which came from Munson’s normal capital process. It became operational last December.

Now comes the next step, fusing the MRI results with real-time ultrasound. That will enable patients to have guided biopsies locally rather than going downstate to centers such as the University of Michigan. The process involves extensive software and training, to the tune of $400,000. That money is now being raised through the Munson Healthcare Foundation.

“This is a really important project, whether you’re a man or a woman who loves your man,” said Des Worthington, the chief development officer for Munson Healthcare. “There’s a huge number of men who need to be tested. We’re about to push through fall and to year-end” for fundraising.

Fly, Flewelling and radiologist Dr. Patrick Gartland have met with potential donors to explain the process and the need. Fly said in each presentation, some of the men present have told their own stories about their prostate cancer. Worthington said thus far they’ve raised approximately $60,000. She hopes to have the entirety raised by the end of this year. If that is the case, Fly said he expects to have everything in place and to begin offering the MRI-guided ultrasound biopsies by late spring or early summer.

Anyone interested in information about or donating to the project can contact Worthington at 935-6509 or can donate online at