2020-08-14 MRRC: Message to Community

August 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I thank all of you for your patience during the shutdown and the current reopening phase. Unfortunately, we have had issues with some investigators failing to follow the MRRC’s SOPs that elevates the potential risk for viral transmission and thus puts all of our studies at risk. After a lengthy discussion by the advisory group, it was decided that groups failing to observe the SOPs will be given a warning after a first infraction and their protocol will be suspended after a second infraction and reported to the IRB. To date the most common infractions are:
    1. failing to wait for the MRRC to call prior to coming to the MRRC;
    2. using practice rooms without signing up for them or using the wrong rooms.
Since we do not have a waiting room available, it is critical to wait for the MRRC to call to ensure that the subject can proceed directly to screening, practice room or magnet room without congregating in the hallway. If for any reason you or your team feel you should have been contacted to come to the MRRC, please call our general number (412) 647-9701 and inquire. DO NOT come to the MRRC to “check on it”. Although not an infraction, groups failing to provide a contact phone number on the schedule to be used to inform the study team when the MRRC is ready to accept their subject will have their slots cancelled. We cannot call you for your study if you do not leave a number. Thus, cancelling the study is our way of making sure that a phone number is provided and avoiding a situation that could lead to an infraction. Since the practice rooms need to be cleaned after each use, it is important to know which rooms to clean and have the potential for tracking should a subject test positive for Covid.

As projects restart it is likely that we will eventually reach the point where additional slots will be needed to meet the demand. The only feasible way to generate additional slots during the pandemic will be to use a denser schedule (i.e. elimination of the 2-hour fixed blocks independent of scan duration). This will only be possible if safety concerns can be met and if all studies can be completed within their allotted and scheduled time windows. Timely completion of the studies will be necessary to preclude significant delays in start times and congregation in hallways and other areas. Thus, over the coming weeks we will be contacting investigators with protocols that chronically run overtime to inform them of the issue and work with them to address the issue. It is important to recall that the total scan time printed on the protocol run sheet (pdf) is significantly shorter than that actually needed to perform the study. Specifically, the summed scan time DOES NOT INCLUDE:
    1. the time to position the subject on the bed and connect all relevant stimulation and physiological recording hardware;
    2. the time spent communicating with the subject (i.e. instructions for tasks, checking in with the subject etc.);
    3. any repeated scans due to subject motion;
    4. the time between scans during which the MRI system performs sequence specific calibrations; and
    5. any time required to remove the subject from the magnet and exit the suite.
Thus, depending on the protocol and subject management, the total time needed can be significantly longer than the total time on the run sheet.

We have updated our COVID-19 SOP to include the details from the last few communications, the policy can be found here.

REMINDERS: Please check with your staff to ensure they are receiving MRRC communications, if not please contact Jen Dobberstein (dobbersteinj@pitt.edu). Our Communications and Policies are available on our website.

I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Hoby Hetherington