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FROM THE VAULT: CT Scanner (2005)

FROM THE VAULT: CT Scanner (2005)

New CT Technology At the Speed of Progress

CT scans, often called "cat scans", use specialized X-ray equipment to develop images that cross-section parts of the body. This type of imaging can give radiologists a clearer view of many different types of tissue, including the lungs, heart, bones, muscle, and even blood vessels. Cancer, heart disease, traumatic injuries, and vascular disease are all easier to diagnose because of CT technology.

The technology has become commonplace in clinical settings over the last two decades. Nearly every hospital has a CT scanner of some sort. Health care professionals have found an increasing number of applications for the scans as the reliability of the technology dramatically improved.

Scanners take highly detailed images in "slices", which are then studied and further manipulated, as needed using specialized computer software. Most scanners currently in use scan 16-slices or fewer. This process is time consuming and sometimes presents difficulty for patients who cannot lie still for the length of time necessary for a detailed scan. As with conventional X-rays, patients must hold their breath momentarily to avoid any movement during the actual scanning.

Now, a new generation of scanners is becoming available. A 64-slice CT scanner recently installed at Arnot Ogden Medical Center produces images faster and with higher resolution than ever before. Impressive? To say the least. The new scanner enhances diagnostic ability and makes CT scans more accurate and comfortable for patients who previously were not good candidates, or for whom the process was problematic, such as the elderly, critically ill, small children, and trauma victims.
The CT staff at Arnot Ogden couldn't be more excited about the enhancement. CT Supervisor Dan Zelko, RT, RCT and Joann Rathbun RT, RCT; Cindy Vondracek RT, RCT; Matt Rohrer, RT, RCT; and Shannon Wilson, RT, RCT have all been fully trained on the new equipment.

"In the short time that we have had this machine, it has amazed all of us with what it can do and how fast it scans," says Dan Zelko. "It processes 64 images in .37 seconds."

The machine, a Seimans 64-slice CT scanner, is one of only about 100 in use nationally and one of just four in New York State. As a regional referral center, Arnot Ogden's new technology is available to patients throughout the Central New York region. At an estimated cost of $2 million, you probably won't be seeing these new scanners at every hospital in the area anytime soon.

"Last year we did more than 18,000 CT scans at Arnot Ogden. In the last six weeks with the new machine we have averaged 40-50 scans per day, some days over 70." says Zelko.

Among the impressive capabilities of this new technology are the Cardiac applications. Cardiac CT is fast becoming a hot topic as more of the 64-slice CT scanners are being placed into service. The new machines can scan quickly enough to capture images of a beating heart during its resting, or still, phase. It also captures the wall motion of the heart and gives doctors an accurate assessment of cardiovascular integrity. It is a less invasive and very effective alternative for cardiac catheterization procedures in some cases, particularly in individuals with a strong history of heart disease, or who have had bypass or stent placement surgery. The CT scan is non-invasive, can be completed in 15 minutes, and no hospital stay is required. This new generation of scanners is able to look directly at blood vessels for blockages and buildup composed of either calcium or cholesterol. A 3-dimensional evaluation of the whole heart and pulmonary arteries is also available.

For trauma victims, head to toe scans are often ordered to help doctors assess internal injuries. "We just had a trauma patient recently scanned on the new 64-slice machine. Table time was less than 10 minutes and the actual scan time was less than two minutes," remarks Zelko. "These head to toe scans used to take an hour or more to complete."

CT Flouroscopsy, used for CT guided biopsies will be greatly enhanced by this new technology. The images captured by the 64-slice scanner allow more accurate views of much smaller areas. This may be of particular benefit to studies of very small suspect areas of the lungs. The implication, of course, is that if small areas of damaged or diseased tissue can be detected and tested earlier, disease can be treated earlier and more effectively.

Virtual colonoscopies can also be performed with the 64-slice CT scanner, without the need for sedation or the insertion of a scope, but only a small diameter catheter.

Since there are not very many of the 64-slice scanners in clinical use yet, there is still much to be discovered. As the technology advances, so will the potential applications. And, with history as a guide, we can expect substantial increases in the demand for this new service very soon.

Dan Zelko, RT, RCT
CT Supervisor
Arnot Ogden Medical Center
Elmira, NY