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Heart Healthy: Cardiovascular MRI imaging is now at Sparrow Hospital

February 28, 2022
<p>The exterior of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, on Sept. 23, 2020.</p>

The exterior of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan, on Sept. 23, 2020.

During American Heart Month, Sparrow Hospital has introduced a new technique with an MRI machine for cardiovascular health that’s completely new to the Lansing community.

Applying comprehensive and thorough imaging of a person’s heart, this technique the machine applies is able to clearly map out the heart without using radiation like X-rays and bypass some cases where surgery would be otherwise needed.

Cardiologist Dr. Christopher Hanson said he is proud of the advancements of the Sparrow Health system this month, as this course of treatment will be more efficient at targeting healthy tissues without using ionizing radiation.

“It’s extremely complicated,” Hanson said. “The long-and-short of it is that it is a non-radiation imaging technique that allows us to image tissues really effectively in ways that allows us to make a lot of statements and judgements about tissue characteristics that previously would have required a biopsy.”

This is not the only advancement Sparrow has made this month. Earlier in February, Sparrow was the first hospital state-wide for a new clinical trial to treat heart patients. The procedure, called the CHAMPION-AF trial, implants a Watchman FLX device into the patient to reduce the actual risk of strokes and atrial fibrillation, which is an irregularly rapid heartbeat that over time can cause blood clots in the heart itself.

Paired with the cardiac tool to see into a patient’s heart, now people living in the Lansing area can feel more protected with the knowledge that heart help is only a few blocks away from them.

“There’s all kinds of different way to do medical imaging that range from tradition X-ray imaging which is the first way we were able to image the human body to ultrasounds clear imaging techniques,” Hanson said. “Ultrasound doesn’t require radiation, but CT imaging and X-ray imaging does. So, MRI was invented and pioneered in the 1970s and became a mainstream imaging technique in the 1990s. It doesn’t actually require any ionizing radiation.”


According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, cardiovascular disease, or CVD, is the leading cause of death in the United States for around a century – not including COVID-19 from 2020 onwards. Heart attacks are the first most cause of death in Michigan, resulting in one of every four deaths. Strokes also caused by cardiovascular issues sit at the third leading cause of death.

Ingham County sits below the Michigan average at 168.2 (+8.1) deaths per 100,000 attributed to heart disease, with Black residents in Lansing more at risk than white counterparts.

“The range of things that you can diagnose from this is pretty substantial,” Hanson said. “Often-time, patients are diagnosed with cardiovascular conditions because they had a cardiac ultrasound or echocardiograms or another imaging technique was done. ... You can take a step back and ask, ‘What’s really going on with this patient's heart? Why do they have heart failure? Is it because they’ve had a heart attack previously? Is it because they have some other condition?’ That can be answered with a cardiac MRI.”

By being an in-area option for residents of Lansing suffering from CVD, the new method of using an MRI for heart-related imaging at Sparrow is removing the worry of having to travel out of the county for aid. The cardiac tool is able to operate with the likeness of an X-ray without the use of radiation, using an extremely powerful magnet to make images of the inside of the body's tissues and structure.

“The Cardiac MRI machine takes a comprehensive, thorough look deep into a patient’s heart, allowing our highly skilled physicians to better evaluate the structure and tissue,” media relations director John Foren wrote in a press release. “It’s a major advancement in measuring how the heart is functioning and can uncover issues that other technology can’t.”

Not all hearts are the same. The device will take clear images of the afflicted area inside a patient to automatically tailor treatment for the individual needs of the patient. This individualized treatment is at the forefront of Sparrow care throughout the hospital complex, as medicine continues in a personalized route for dealing with ailments of all types.

Sparrow is one of the nationally recognized hospitals in treatment for heart attack patients and, because of their non-invasive testing and other services in the Vascular Center, was prepared for the Cardiac MRI tool to provide immediate aid.

“With MRI technology, we can characterize the tissue without doing a biopsy, which is an invasive procedure, so it’s really transformed medical imaging,” Hanson said. “So, we’ve applied all those same principles to imaging the heart so we can look at the heart structure.”

Key health tips from the American Heart Association in 2013 listed several factors that indicate bad cardiovascular health: Blood pressure above 120/88 mm, less than an hour of physical activity for adults, high levels of cholesterol above 170 mg/dl and smoking all impact heart health and can cause CVD.

Able to transform lives, the MRI machine is now operable and ready for patients in the Vascular Center at Sparrow Hospital.

“Sparrow has received national recognition as one of the top hospitals treating heart attack patients,“ Foren said. “And it’s close to home so that Mid-Michigan residents don’t have to travel outside the area.”

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For cardiovascular visits, Sparrow Hospital is located at the corner at 1215 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing, and can be reached at 517-364-3278. For regular visits, Sparrow’s mainline can be reached at 1-517-364-1000.


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