NHRMC’s advanced imaging technologies make for most accurate diagnosis

April 11, 2007
A blurry picture gets you nowhere, especially in health care. At New Hanover Regional Medical Center, advanced imaging technologies, including the 64-slice CT, open bore MRI, and PET/CT scanner, now reveal the human body in never-before-seen detail, giving physicians the clearest image possible to make fast, effective diagnoses. It's just one way NHRMC is making a profound difference in the quality of health care for residents of Southeastern North Carolina and beyond. With 64 rows of imaging detectors that in four seconds can produce as many as 2,000 images one millimeter thick of the body's various organs and vessels, the 64-slice CT is an updated version of the standard CT, or Computed Tomography, and one of the hospital's newest additions. "The old technology was slower, and it wasn't as highly detailed," said Lead CT Technologist Paul Gallagher. For patients that means a fast, comprehensive diagnosis for aches and pains that might indicate serious underlying illness. But the potential patient impact of the 64-slice doesn't stop there. "With patients whose scans detect an aortic aneurysm, we can now send that same scanning information to a company that will manufacture a graft designed specifically for that patient to repair that aneurysm," said Bobbie Burn, one of NHRMC's radiology managers. "The graft truly becomes a customized body part." For patients who can't stand being squeezed into an MRI tunnel for testing, the open MRI offers a wider scanning tube for greater elbow room - hence the term "open bore" - without compromising imaging quality. With service to more than 3,300 patients after slightly more than a year of operation, NHRMC's open MRI, one of only a handful in the state, boasts a tunnel length of just over 4 feet, compared to a standard MRI tunnel that runs nearly 7 feet. "Whatever part is being scanned, part of you is sticking out and that's what patients like," said Burn. That was good news for 69-year-old Jeremiah Alexander who, at over six feet tall, recently underwent his first MRI on the open machine. "I've had a number of the old type," he said. "The open type is much, much better." The PET scanner, or positron emission tomography, has been an anchor in NHRMC imaging technology since 2004, when New Hanover Regional was the first hospital in Southeastern North Carolina to acquire it. The PET scanner has traditionally been used to diagnose and stage a patient’s cancer progression. In recent years, applications of the highly effective PET scanner have become more numerous, including its use in conjunction with the CT scanner to produce the hybrid PET/CT scanner. Combined, the power of these two technologies can assist in the early detection of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia or depression that appear with aging. "There are individual cases of patients where the precision of the diagnosis is very important, and for those patients it can be very important in helping them plan their lives," said Neurologist J. Thaddeus Coin, MD. For residents of the region, these superior imaging capabilities mean top quality health care right at home. “Our mission at NHRMC is to provide the patient’s physician with the best imaging information possible with the latest technology available,” Burn said. For more information on NHRMC’s various imaging services, please contact the Imaging Department at 452.8777.