Northwestern Memorial Hospital installs 64-Slice CT scanner, now available for clinical use

06/16/05

Country's most advanced CT improves imaging of the heart and other organs, making the diagnosis of certain diseases faster, easier and potentially more accurate

Northwestern Memorial Hospital has installed the latest computed tomography (CT) imaging software and machinery, also known as a 64-slice CT scanner. While current generation CT scanners are fine for most applications, the newly installed device produces precise diagnostic pictures within five to 10 seconds, enabling one to "freeze" motion and better define certain disease processes. For patients experiencing symptoms associated with heart disease, the new scanner provides improved resolution of images of the coronary arteries that may obviate the need for more invasive testing.

"This technology will need to undergo further evaluation, but it could dramatically alter the way we currently treat patients with suspected coronary disease and chest pain," said Eric J. Russell, MD, Chairman of Radiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"By providing a non-invasive study that can quickly distinguish blocked from normal coronary arteries, we can determine who is and is not at high risk of having a heart attack. This can reduce the time a patient must spend in the emergency department, or eliminate the need for hospitalization, if the exam is normal," adds Charles Davidson, MD, chief, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratories, Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The scanner will also be used for other important applications, such as identifying narrowed brain arteries that put patients at risk of having a stroke, and for evaluating blood flow in other organs such as the liver and kidney. Developing specific clinical protocols for scanning patients with certain kinds of symptoms will be a continuing process, and extending the use of cardiac CT is a collaborative effort between the Section of Cardiovascular Radiology led by James Carr, MD, and the Division of Cardiology in the Department of Medicine spearheaded by Dr. Davidson.

The new scanner installed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital is the SOMATOM Sensation 64, manufactured by Siemens Medical Solutions. Features include production of images much faster than that possible with current 4-slice and 16-slice scanners, improved fine detail resolution, and improved post-processing to generate 3-dimensional images for treatment planning.

To produce a CT image, computer-driven machinery passes X-rays through the body, producing digitized signals that are detected and reconstructed. Each X-ray measurement lasts just a fraction of a second and represents a "slice" of an organ or tissue. The greater the number of detectors, the better the speed and resolution of the picture. A computer then uses these slices to reconstruct highly detailed, 3-D images of the heart, other organs, and blood vessels throughout the body. In most cases, a patient is injected with a contrast solution to increase the visual detail.

"Within just the last few years, CT scanning technology has made incredible strides as a diagnostic tool," said Vahid Yaghmai, MD, MS, medical director, Computed Tomography at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "As recently as last year, the technical gold standard was 16-slice, which required the patient to hold their breath for 25- to 40-seconds in the time it took to perform the scan, as compared to 8-12 seconds with the 64-slice CT scanner."

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