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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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New 64-Slice CT Scanner Advances DeBakey VA's Radiology Capabilities

December 20, 2007

HOUSTON – Late last month, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) began clinical use of the latest technology in computed tomography (CT) imaging software and machinery, a 64-slice CT scanner.

While current generation CT scanners are fine for most applications, the newly installed device produces precise diagnostic pictures within five to 10 seconds, enabling health care providers to "freeze" motion and better define certain disease processes. For patients experiencing symptoms associated with heart disease, the new scanner provides improved resolution of images of the coronary arteries that may prevent the need for more invasive testing.

"Within just the last few years, CT scanning technology has made incredible strides as a diagnostic tool," said Charles Jones, R.T., chief technologist, Radiology Section. "As recently as last year, the technical gold standard was 16-slice, which required the patient to hold their breath for 25 to 40 seconds, as compared to eight to 12 seconds with the 64-slice CT scanner."

The 64-slice CT scanner is invaluable in diagnosing and evaluating blood flow in organs such as the liver and kidney, monitoring changes in tumor size, searching the lungs for pulmonary emboli, identifying narrowed brain arteries that put patients at risk of having a stroke, and pinpointing other neurological problems.

To produce a CT image, computer-driven machinery passes X-rays through the body, producing digitized signals that are detected and reconstructed. Each X-ray measurement lasts just a fraction of a second and represents a "slice" of an organ or tissue. The greater the number of detectors, the better the speed and resolution of the picture. A computer then uses these slices to reconstruct highly detailed, three dimensional images of the heart, other organs, and blood vessels throughout the body. In most cases, a patient is injected with a contrast solution to increase the visual detail.

“This new technology will give us better pictures in a shorter amount of time,” said Meena Vij, M.D., Diagnostic and Therapeutic Care Line executive. “Single slice CT scanners would give us about 75 images per study, the new 64 slice gives us one thousand. And the 3-D imagery allows us to see more of the body and find things that routinely did not turn up on a regular CT scan. This new technology is opening up a whole new door in diagnosing and treating disease.”

"The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is proud to be known for providing our veterans with the latest technology," said Thomas B. Horvath, M.D., chief of staff. "While we need the critical anatomical information we get from a CT scan, we always want to limit the x-ray dose to the absolute minimum possible. The new 64-slice CT scanner features advanced technology to ensure we get exceptional images with relatively small increases in the radiation dose to the patient.”

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