Emory Report
September 19, 2005
Volume 58, Number 4


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September 26 , 2005
New CT scanners offer morediagnostic opportunities

By janet christenbury

Emory Hospital recently 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, 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.

“We are excited to have obtained this new technology for both diagnostic and research means,” said Sanjay Saini, professor and chair of radiology. “While we know the 64-slice CT scanners work in diagnosing some conditions, but we still need to test-drive them on others. We will examine how best to use the scanners for certain medical conditions and when to use them in place of more invasive tests.

“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,” he continued. “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,” Saini said, “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.”

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 stroke, head injury, 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 machine offers, the more precise the scans.

The two new scanners (one made by GE Healthcare and the other by Siemens Medical Solutions) work faster than other multislice scanners: five seconds as compared to 20. This is helpful for imaging pediatric and geriatric patients who may have trouble lying still while holding their breath during the scans. The faster scans also can reduce patients’ stress and anxiety.

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).

“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,” Saini said.