Computed tomography scans (CT Scans) are medical imaging devices that take X-rays from various angles and put them all together to create a cross-sectional image. These images have become very beneficial in providing vastly improved visual information of the body -- lifesaving in many situations, such as diagnosing severe head injuries.
Since its introduction in the 1970s, CT has become an important supplement?to standard ?
X-rays?and?ultrasound. It has more recently found favor in?preventive screening and monitoring?for diseases, such as cancer, kidney stones and full-motion heart scans for patients with a high risk of heart disease. But the increased use of CT has concerned some health experts because the CT involves more radiation than traditional X-rays. Some studies have indicated a link between radiation exposure and an increased risk of cancer.New technological advances are addressing that issue. A new CT scanner (General Electric’s Optima 660) now in use at St. Mary's Medical Center is making a big contribution to safety and clinical review of the body. St. Mary’s is the first in the metro area using this model. Early model CT scans provide 4, 16 or 32 "slices" of the area being scanned. But the 128-slice scan provides superior images while using 40-50 percent less radiation.
Because the scan provides 128-images, it gives physicians a non-invasive way to see inside the body in 3-D images. This is important to many clinical areas including interventional radiology, cardiology, neurology, oncology, vascular surgery -- even routine CT. It will allow doctors a better look at areas of the body where time-critical diagnosis is particularly important, such has stroke. Faster diagnosis of an early stroke can save time when minutes matter most.
Another advantage to the new scanner is that it requires less use of contrast. Contrasts are used to improve the visibility of internal bodily structures. The most common reactions from these agents are mild, including nausea and an itching rash; however, more severe reactions may occur.
The advantages we’ve explained are particularly important for those patients suffering diverticulitis (a common digestive disease particularly found in the large intestine), kidney stones (renal calculus) and many forms of cancers. It's not uncommon for these patients to undergo many scans during their treatment and recovery, in what we refer to as "serial studies." Lowering the dose of radiation and contrast for these patients is a huge development.
Another benefit includes table time. The scanner can scan the entire body in just less than 10 seconds, which can be a godsend to patients who may have difficulty remaining still for significant periods of time.
Corey Chopra, MD, is a radiologist at St. Mary’s Medical Center.