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Sask. hospital welcomes Canada's first portable pediatric MRI machine

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A machine that can take brain scans from a child’s hospital bed has arrived in Saskatchewan.

Unlike regular MRI scanners, the Swoop Portable MRI System is mobile.

Currently, pediatric patients who need an MRI have to be wheeled to Royal University Hospital (RUH).

"Now we can go to the patient's bedside to take images," Matthew Malach, an MRI technician at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital (JPCH), said.

The machine is expected to be a game changer for Saskatchewan’s sickest children.

"For patients who are on life support, bringing them to an MRI scanner is fraught with difficulties — including pushing them across the hallway with the possibilities of them being disconnected," Pediatric Intensivist Dr. Gregory Hansen said.

The machine is smaller and quieter than a typical MRI machine.

With the new equipment, parents are allowed to be in the room and hold their child’s hand during the scan. As a result, Hansen expects kids won’t require sedatives.

"With the younger kids, we may be able to scan them without providing any sedatives at all," Hansen told journalists at an event revealing the new machine.

Pediatric Intensivist Dr. Gregory Hansen at the unveiling of the Swoop portable MRI machine, May 14, 2024. (Laura Woodward / CTV News)

The scanner will stay at JPCH and can be used on patients as young as two years old.

The FDA has yet to approve its use on babies, but Hansen expects that will happen in the coming year.

Hansen said this is the only portable pediatric MRI machine in Canada.

Saskatchewan Grain Farmer Gene Pidwerbesky made a $500,000 donation to help pay for the $1 million machine.

Synergy 8, a local non-profit, fundraised to cover the other half.

The Swoop Portable MRI System is expected to begin taking scans in mid June. 

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