The company already has more than 500 helium-free MRI machines installed around the world, which represents a saving of more than 750,000 liters of helium
BlueSeal technology allows MRI scanners to run on just 7 liters of helium, compared to the usual 1,500, and reduces installation and maintenance costs
MADRID, Nov. 10
The rise in helium prices in recent years poses a threat to the sustainability of health systems around the world. This chemical element is used in all magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment to cool the powerful superconductors used by these machines to generate high-quality diagnostic images. However, the increasingly limited supply of a scarce material and its high cost could jeopardize the normal operation of many radiology services.
"Helium is a raw material that has been seriously affected by the price inflation that we have been suffering in recent months, which has aggravated the strong increase in prices that we have been seeing in recent years due to its high demand and a limited supply," explains Han Rademaker, head of RM at Philips Iberia. In addition, many of the helium production plants are located in countries threatened by geopolitical conflicts, which adds more uncertainty to both the price and the availability of this element.
A standard MRI machine needs about 1,500 liters of helium to function optimally. Generally, and over time, the amount of helium in the equipment must be replenished due to small gradual leaks, which is an increasingly pressing problem for hospital maintenance services.
"The increase in the price of helium is affecting the maintenance costs of all those hospitals that have at least one magnetic resonance equipment", says Fernando Borau, Services Delivery Manager of Philips Iberia. "However, since the economic impact is a serious problem, it becomes secondary when it is necessary to recharge helium for an MRI and there is no availability", adds Borau.
In situations like this, the equipment can be inoperative for weeks, something extremely worrying for any hospital considering the existing waiting lists to perform this type of diagnostic tests.
Aware of this problem, Philips has developed BlueSeal technology, a revolutionary sealing of the superconductor system that generates the magnetic field of an MRI and that works with only 7 liters of helium or, what is the same, 0.5% of the helium used by conventional MRI equipment.
One of the main advantages of Philips devices that incorporate BlueSeal technology, in addition to a drastic reduction in the amount of helium needed to work, is that they do not need to be recharged. “No matter what happens, your team will never need to recharge helium, ensuring full MR availability for the hospital,” says Rademaker.
Philips already has more than 500 helium-free devices installed in hospitals around the world, both public and private. The first of them in Spain was installed in 2019 at Hospitales Universitarios San Roque, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. "Thanks to the RM equipment that uses BlueSeal technology, we have achieved savings of more than 750,000 liters of Helium globally, which contributes to our commitment as a company to the sustainability of the planet," adds the head of RM at Philips Iberia .
Another advantage of magnetic resonance equipment without helium is a drastically lower weight. Conventional MR equipment has an additional weight of close to 1.5 tons, "which represents an additional engineering and construction challenge for hospitals," warns Fernando Borau.
In addition, classic MRI equipment needs to have an emergency extraction system -quench tube- in case helium leaks in gas form. This requirement further limits the spaces in which an MRI can be installed, something that does not happen in equipment that incorporates Philips BlueSeal technology.
"Those responsible for planning hospital and maintenance infrastructures value this technology positively because it reduces installation costs, allows MR equipment to be placed in places that are incompatible with quench tubes and avoids unforeseen costs," details the Philips Iberia representative.
For their part, health professionals highly value the high availability of these MRI equipment, as well as its image quality. "We are talking about equipment that, despite operating practically without helium, has high clinical performance, so professionals do not have to give up anything," adds Han Rademaker.
In fact, Philips helium-free MRI scanners can perform high-quality scans up to 40% faster than conventional scanners, including 2D and 3D imaging. Carrying out the test in less time also contributes to patients being more relaxed, the results more reliable and fewer examinations having to be repeated.
Philips is currently the only company in the world that has developed helium-free 1.5 Tesla MRI equipment, guaranteeing high-quality studies, reliable performance and easy installation.
About Royal Philips
Royal Philips (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHI) is a leading health technology company focused on improving people's health and well-being, and facilitating better outcomes across the health cycle, from healthy habits health and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and home care. Philips uses its advanced technology and deep clinical and consumer insights to deliver integrated solutions. Headquartered in the Netherlands, the company is a leader in diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics, as well as consumer health and home care. Philips has recorded sales of €17.2 billion in 2021 and employs approximately 78,000 employees, with business operations and services in more than 100 countries. All Philips news is in our News Center.
Issuer: Philips Iberia
Contact: Cesar Garcia Requena, Brand