New CT scanner is impressive diagnostic tool

Staff reporter

It's like taking a loaf of bread and being able to examine it by making 16 slices.

That's similar to what the new 16-slice CT scanner at Hillsboro Community Medical Center does except the slices produced by the new machine are only as thick as a piece of 0.5mm pencil lead.

"Besides the thinner slices, the biggest difference between our old single slice machine and this is that this machine provides much faster exams," HCMC chief executive officer Mike Ryan said, which means a shorter, single breath-hold for patients.

"For our older patients in particular, this is a much easier procedure than before," he said.

Another plus is the images are available for physicians immediately on the computer in their offices or on a compact disc if patients need to take images with them to specialists.

The machine is a Siemens Somatom Emotion 16 for computed tomography (CT) scanning.

It is called a 16-slice scanner because it produces 16 slices of information for each rotation of the scanning tube. One advantage of that much information is the ability to reproduce 3D images of body parts such as bones or organs.

"This is the top of the line for critical access hospitals like HCMC," Ryan said.

With specialized software, a technician can instruct the machine to look for injected contrast fluids in a specific area. The machine then detects the contrast in the body and makes the image.

Other features include a larger table which can hold up to 450 pounds, and an adjustable table which can be lowered to make it easier for patients to climb on and off.

Another advantage is being able to track patient information via computers instead of having a paper trail for each admission.

"The community will see a positive impact from this acquisition," Ryan said.

What is CT scanning?

CT scanning, sometimes called CAT scanning, is a non-invasive, painless medical test that helps physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions.

CT imaging uses special X-ray equipment to produce multiple images or pictures of the inside of the body and a computer to join them together in cross-sectional views of the area being studied. The images then can be examined on a computer monitor or printed.

CT scans of internal organs, bone, soft tissue, and blood vessels provide greater clarity than conventional X-ray exams.

Radiologists can more easily diagnose cancer, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, traumas, and musculoskeletal disorders.

How does the procedure work?

In many ways, CT scanning works like other X-ray examinations. X-rays are a form of radiation that can be directed at the body. Different body parts absorb the X-rays in varying degrees.

In a conventional X-ray exam, a small burst of radiation is aimed at and passes through the body, recording an image on photographic film or a special image recording plate. Bones appear white on the X-ray. Soft tissue shows up in shades of gray and air appears black.

With CT scanning, numerous X-ray beams and a set of electronic X-ray detectors rotate around the patient, measuring the amount of radiation being absorbed throughout the body. At the same time, the examination table is moving through the scanner, so that the X-ray beam follows a spiral path. A special computer program processes the series of pictures, or slices of the body, to create multi-dimensional cross-sectional images which then are displayed on a monitor.