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March 2005 Issue

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UC's New Hi-Tech Scanner "Slices" Patient Visit Time

Published March 2005

A new, state-of-the-art scanner in the UC Department of Radiology will provide physicians with images of their patients in detail not possible before.

And the speed at which the scanner works allows it to gather high-resolution images faster than earlier scanners, while providing a more accurate diagnosis.

The device, the 15th of its kind in the United States when it was installed at UC and still the first in Cincinnati, is a Somatom Sensation 64-slice CT (computerized tomography) scanner.

"Slice" refers to the way the scanner makes images of a series of anatomical segments--similar to slicing a loaf of bread. With its ability to take 64 images during each rotation around the patient's body--compared with only one, four, eight or 16 images captured by current CT scanners--the 64-slice scanner delivers much better definition.

Anything causing motion--including heart beats or breathing--can result in a blurred image. By moving faster than previous models, the new machine can adjust for heart contractions, although breathing still affects image quality.

"With the 64-slice scanner, patients only have to hold their breath for 8 to 12 seconds," says Cristopher Meyer, MD, an associate professor of radiology at UC. "That's a considerable improvement over earlier scanners that require patients to hold their breath for 25 to 40 seconds.

"With this new technology we can scan the entire chest in 10 seconds, which means our patients will get treated faster," he says.

This has an advantage for scheduling, Dr. Meyer adds.

"Patients may walk in to schedule an appointment and we can take them directly back to the 64-slice scanner," he says. "Their scan is completed in a single held breath, and they can get on with their day. Without blurred images, we can provide faster, more accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations."

CT scanning works by capturing a series of pictures of the body after injection of a contrast medium. The quicker the scanner, the lower the amount of contrast medium necessary, making it easier for the kidneys to filter. At the same time, more images can be gathered at once. This allows for whole organs or much larger sections of the body to be imaged, resulting in more accurate diagnoses.

UC is using the 64-slice scanner for routine imaging. The real advantage, however, says Dr. Meyer, is in its current application in heart imaging, virtual colonoscopy, virtual bronchoscopy and neurovascular imaging.

The scanner will also be a key research tool. UC surgeon Randall Wolf, MD, for example, inventor of the "minimaze" procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, uses it to screen patients for coronary artery disease while simultaneously gathering data about the left atrial heart chamber prior to the innovative procedure.

The 64-slice CT scanner is located at University Radiology Associates Inc., in the Medical Arts Building at 222 Piedmont Ave.

UC acquired the 64-slice CT scanner from Siemens Medical Solutions, which has installed the device at 40 institutions around the country, including the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, UCLA, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Johns Hopkins Health System and Massachusetts General Hospital.

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