Tupelo — Physicians are constantly challenged to detect medical problems in the most accurate and efficient manner possible — and as early as possible — in order to best serve their patients. And as available technologies continue to improve, physicians are finding that they can identify problems in a manner that’s increasingly less invasive to patients.
This summer, Medical Imaging on Crossover in Tupelo installed what it described as “next-generation imaging technology” via the Volume CT — a CT scanner that captures images with a greater speed and detail that officials said enables physicians to more accurately diagnose diseases, such as heart and lung disorders, without the need for invasive studies. At press time, officials said that Medical Imaging was the 29th facility in the country to purchase and install the technology.
Dr. Robert Becker, a neuroradiologist with Premier Radiology in Tupelo, said that the new generation 64-slice CT captures images so fast that it can actually picture movement, such as the heart beating, as well as smaller body structures and small vessels that were not able to be imaged until now. He added that previous-generation CTs, particularly single-slice and four-slice models, could not provide the image quality or detail that was desired to accurately diagnose heart and lung problems.
Becker and other physicians in the practice became aware of the technology through their continuing medical education and studied its applications in other parts of the country. Officials said that the Volume CT was introduced in June 2004 and is comparable in its patient cost to other CT scans.
Cost-effectiveness, patient convenience, and above all, the ability to detect diseases as quickly as possible in order to treat them earlier, are all priorities that went into the decision to purchase and install the new technology. While the overall cost of the equipment was not disclosed, Lee Frans, Medical Imaging director, said that the unit has a cost that is 40% to 60% higher than the 16-slice version of this equipment.
Frans said that a cardiac scan can be completed within five heartbeats and a whole body scan can be completed in 10 seconds. Becker said that this is advantageous particularly for children, elderly patients or others who may not be able to be still for longer periods. Noting the speed, Becker said that it probably takes longer for the technician to type in the patient’s name in the computer.
Once the images are taken by the CT scanner, a computer combines them to form a three-dimensional picture of the body structures. Specially-trained Premier Radiology physicians can then take these images and manipulate them to highlight areas of possible disease.
Treatment — as early as possible
With some previous technologies, Becker said that there could be some blurring given the heart’s constant motion. But because the images are captured so quickly, the Volume CT can freeze-frame the heart pumping, the blood moving and the lungs breathing. He added that the detailed images can enable physicians to better pinpoint even the earliest signs of disease so that the patient can begin treatment as early as possible.
Officials said that patients that may benefit from a cardiac scan with this advanced CT are people at high risk for cardiovascular disease due to standard risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol or strong family history; patients who need follow-up after coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty or stents; people who have had chest pain or other symptoms, but have had normal cardiac tests; patients with no symptoms who have had abnormal cardiac testing, including stress, EKG, stress ECHO and stress thallium.
Range of applications
Frans said that the new CT scan could be used for many different types of exams including cardiac imaging, abdominal imaging, angiography, pulmonary imaging, neuro imaging, oncologic imaging and bone imaging.
Given the sophistication of the technology, Frans said that the technical and medical staff have been exposed to additional training onsite and out of the area due to new scanning protocols and the utilization of computer and software applications.
To date, Frans said that patients that have been through the process have expressed positive feedback.
“The short time involved and the ability to have minimal preparation seem to have led to the positive response,” Frans said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at firstname.lastname@example.org.