New system should provide patients with quick results

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By Wendy Hoffman

Los Alamos Medical Center will soon unveil its new 16-slice computer tomography (CT) imaging system. The GE Healthcare BrightSpeed VCT Select scanner brings additional state-of-the-art technology to LAMC’s imaging department with speed as a major focus, say those who will work most closely with the new machine.“Because it is replacing a 1-slice scanner,” said Leroy Baca, Director of Radiology, “we can now get 15 times more data with each image. It works with 16 rows of detectors as the body is scanned, so there is much less chance of missing anything. We can also retrospectively reconstruct data for a doctor if need be.” The new scanning process is much faster, as well, Baca said, making for less X-ray exposure and “stress time” for the patient and providing the physician with quicker results.In particular, Baca said, CT angiograms or images of the heart will be “greatly enhanced.”The new scanner also provides for improved detection of pulmonary emboli (blood clots in the lungs), improved aortic images, increased detection of lung cancer and enhanced imaging of the pancreas and adrenals, Baca added.In the orthopaedic arena, he said the new scanner’s ability to do three-dimensional image reconstruction of a bone, using three times more data than is currently available, will greatly assist physicians.Dr. J.D. Griste, an LAMC radiologist, agreed.“The benefits of the new scanner are manifold,” Griste said. “We will get enhanced image quality, increased scan speed, a broader range of examinations, and advanced image post-processing.”Some parts of the patient experience will stay the same.The new scanner will still require preparatory steps, Baca said, such as the administration of oral contrast for bowel exams and intravenous contrast for studies seeking a dye-enhanced image, but the clarity and quality of those images will be significantly better than older technology.LAMC officials expect to open the new scanner to the public in mid- to late February, Baca said.The machine itself is already on campus, he added, but “we needed a new cooling system to accommodate this sophisticated equipment, hence the delay as we wait for the construction to be completed.”Information provided by General Electric states that LAMC can now offer its physicians an “innovative way ee to obtain the information they need to diagnose symptoms such as chest pain and life-threatening illnesses including cardiovascular disease and stroke.”LAMC physicians are now able to routinely cover patient anatomy faster – whether it is imaging the heart, a single organ, or performing whole body trauma faster than what could be done on a conventional multi-slice CT scanner, according to GE.This speed can be especially helpful in shortening breath holds for geriatric patients, patients who are on ventilators, and pediatric patients, GE states.Additionally, it helps to deliver outstanding image quality and clear, highly detailed images of the heart and coronary arteries.GE Healthcare described its BrightSpeed VCT Select as having a rotation speed of 0.4 seconds, capable of creating high-resolution anatomical images as thin as a credit card.These images are combined to form a three-dimensional view of the patient’s anatomy for the physician to analyze. From these images, physicians can view obstructions in the coronary arteries, as well as visualize the motion and beating of a patient’s heart.LAMC Chief Executive Officer Sandra Podley said the scanner will “break barriers in speed and accuracy of patient scans ee LAMC will now be able to offer new and enhanced diagnostic procedures thanks to our new BrightSpeed VCT Select. This technology is greatly benefiting both the physicians and patients of northern New Mexico. We’re excited to be able to offer this technology to our region.”Podley added that an extra benefit to hospitals that acquire this technology is the ability to attract additional referring physicians, as well as patients who want the latest in imaging capabilities. Those patients will have more to be excited about in the near future, Podley said.“Stay tuned for additional improvements in this department including digital imaging and storage in early 2008,” she said.Griste said those advances, combined with the new CT scanner, will provide huge advances for the hospital.“The combination of PACS (Photographic Archive Computer System) and the new scanner will greatly improve how fast the images are produced, read, and results reported out to the referring physician,” Griste said.

Wendy Hoffman is director of community relations at Los Alamos Medical Center.