Emory University Hospital has acquired two high-speed, state-of-the-art computed tomography (CT) scanners to diagnose certain medical conditions more rapidly and to determine if the technology can diagnose other conditions, particularly vascular conditions, from the head to the toes. The new scanners, which are referred to as 64-slice scanners, allow experts to image incredibly small details in a matter of seconds. The slices are as thin as a credit card, and when combined, form a three-dimensional view of the patient's anatomy for the physician to analyze.
"We are excited to have obtained this new technology for both diagnostic and research means," says Sanjay Saini, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology, Emory University School of Medicine. "While we know that the 64-slice CT scanners work in diagnosing some conditions, we still need to test drive the scanners on others. Therefore, through research studies, we will examine how to best use the scanners for certain medical conditions and when to use them in place of more invasive tests."
CT scans have been used since the 1970s to visualize certain organs and parts of the body slice by slice. They can assist in detecting strokes, head injuries, bone and soft tissue damage in trauma patients, and herniated discs, among other things. CT scanners come equipped with single-slice, four-slice, eight-slice, 16-slice and 64-slice imaging systems. The more slices a scanner offers, the more precise the scans.
The two new 64-slice CT scanners, one made by GE Healthcare and the other by Siemens Medical Solutions, are faster than other multi-slice scanners in that they can reduce scans from 20 seconds to just five seconds. This speed is helpful for imaging pediatric and geriatric patients who may have trouble lying still while holding their breaths during the scans. The faster scans can also reduce stress and anxiety in patients.
With a single scan, the 64-slice CT scanners can help rule out certain life-threatening conditions such as aortic dissections (a tear in the wall of the aorta) and pulmonary embolisms (a blockage of an artery in the lung).
But Dr. Saini cautions that not every multi-slice CT scanner has been proven to work on every body part for every condition. "If a patient comes in complaining of abdominal pain, we have had proven success that the 16-slice CT scanner can help us diagnose the problem," explains Dr. Saini. "Therefore, we know the 64-slice scanner would do the same. But if a patient comes in with chest pain related to the heart, we know the 16-slice scanner has not been as successful in detecting heart problems. So we would perform a standard coronary angiogram (a simple X-ray image of blood vessels after they are filled with contrast dye) on the patient, as well as offer that person a 64-slice CT scan for our research purposes. These clinical trials will help us determine if CT scans of the heart are as good as a standard angiogram in diagnosing coronary artery disease or other heart complications."
Dr. Saini goes on to say, "Research-driven institutions like Emory hope to lead the way in investigating the best possible diagnostic methods for all sorts of conditions, for the benefit of the patient."
Emory University Hospital received GE Healthcare's 100th manufactured 64-slice CT scanner this summer, as the hospital celebrates its centennial anniversary this year. The hospital's centennial celebration signifies 100 years of the latest innovations and research.