Hospital installing faster, safer, more sensitive CT scanner


NAN-0411-CAT scan-3cBy next week, patients at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County who need a CT scan will have the advantage of being tested by a new, faster, safer device.

As part of the $12 million proposed emergency room expansion, the hospital has acquired a 64-slice General Electric Lightspeed Vascular Computerized Tomography device, or VCT.

The machine it replaces was a 16-slice machine – adequate, but this one will offer much more according to Radiology Director Will Gossett. In addition to being four times as sensitive, Gossett said this VCT will be able to accurately scan a beating heart, something the previous scanner could not do. The scan takes only a few seconds.

“It has lower radiation, half the old one, so it is good for pediatric patients,” he said. And scanning 64 slices at a time (he describes a “slice” as about the thickness of a credit card) will provide sharper, more detailed images. Adding to that is the accompanying software that increases image resolution even more by interpolating between scans, all resulting in a three-dimensional image that can be viewed from different angles (Adaptive Statistical Iterative Reconstruction).

“We already had low exposure with the old scanner,” he said, but the new one will provide a level of radiation described as “ALARA” or “as low as reasonable achievable.”

The new ASIR technology lowers patients’ exposure to radiation by as much as 65 percent, and gives technicians the ability to perform CTA coronary examinations, quick, non-invasive procedures that determine heart health, he added.

They also will be able to do a better job with profusion studies relating to strokes.

“The new CT scanner will give us the ability to do quick and accurate diagnosis of stroke by helping emergency room and staff physicians to quickly decide a course of action to reverse or at least reduce the negative effects of heart attack and stroke,” said Sam Lynd, assistant administrator at Baptist Union County.

Other tests that can be performed with the scanners include virtual colonoscopies and detailed examinations of the vessel walls for plaque and blood clots.

The new scanner is expected to be in service in a few days.

“We were already accredited with the old one so it should be easy to get accreditation with the new one,” Gossett said, and added that he expects cardiac accreditation as well.

The new scanner has an opening large enough to accommodate a 500 pound person – a 100-pound increase over the old one.

The hospital still does Magnetic Resonance Imaging, but Gossett said that is mostly for joints and related space, and traditional X-rays continue to be used (although they are now digital and use no physical film). That means a physician can examine a scan from just about any location where he or she has Internet access, and the hospital is in the process of converting all its other medical records to electronic formats so they are accessible as well.

“This just demonstrates Baptist’s commitment to patient care and investment in the community,” Physicians Relation Director Nancy Kidd said.

Kidd added that the hospital expects 24,000 to 25,000 emergency room visits in the next year so having this VCT available 24 hours a day will help speed treatment time as well as quicken and aid diagnosis.

The $12 million emergency room expansion is just waiting on the certificate of need to be issued by the state, probably next month, to begin construction of the new 25-bed ER that will approximately triple the hospital’s emergency capacity.