Imagine imaging technology so advanced it not only helps identify serious medical conditions, but in some cases may also help repair them.
At New Hanover Regional Medical Center, that technology has become a reality with the recent addition of the 64-slice CT scanner.
An updated version of the standard CT, or computed tomography scan, the new 64-slice CT has 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 old technology was slower, and it wasn’t as highly detailed,” said Lead CT Technologist Paul Gallagher. “Along with image quality, the big difference with the 64-slice is speed – it actually scans so quickly that things like breathing motion, even uncooperative patient motion, don’t show up.
A first line of detection for serious underlying illness, the new 64-slice CT renders images in slices like a loaf of bread as it scans for various vessel and tissue-related abnormalities throughout the body, which can then be referred for treatment.
One of the ways the 64-slice CT outshines its predecessors is with patients whose scans reveal an aortic aneurysm, a condition where the vessel wall weakens producing a bulge, much like a bulge on an over-inflated inner tube.
“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 the aneurysm,” said Bobby Burn, NHRMC’s radiology manager.
Historically, treating an aneurysm meant extensive thoracic surgery and a surgeon fashioning a graft, or patch, by hand.
“In the old days it was hard to size these grafts, but with the scanning information, we can now design a graft based on the size and specifications of a patient’s aorta,” Burn said. “It’s really become a customized body part.”
Gallagher said the ability of the 64-slice CT to assist in treatment of these kinds of vascular weaknesses, coupled with surgical advances like balloon catheterization, improves dramatically the kind of surgery once offered patients.
"Now with less invasive procedures, we can implement these specially made grafts by sliding them through the aorta and deploying them,” he said.
Burn said the therapeutic impact on patient outcome of the 64-slice CT scanner beyond just a diagnostic tool should not be underestimated.
“This new technology hastens a patient’s time from diagnosis to repair and increases overall chances for a positive outcome because the treatment is patient-specific,” he said.
For more information on the new 64-slice CT scanner, please contact NHRMC’s Imaging Department at 667-8777.