Some news from RSNA meeting in Chicago this week
GE Healthcare, the imaging unit of General Electric Co., will be tantalizing the radiologists and their cohorts with promises of HDCT, echoing the high-definition sales pitches of the consumer television industry.
The term is really a metaphor to describe what GE believes is a major improvement in the clarity of computer-generated images made by X-rays to provide cross-section images of a patient’s anatomy.
In this case, said Gene Saragnese, GE’s vice president of molecular imaging and computed tomography, researchers have found a way to boost image clarity while reducing the dose of X-ray radiation a patient experiences.
The key to this magic lies in a new material the company has developed that serves as a detector of the X-rays after they pass through a patient’s organs.
GE describes its gemstone detector as a "4,600-karat megagarnet," but it is a synthetic creation rather than a decorative gem.
"It’s the first new detector material in 20 years," said Saragnese. "We anticipate it will mean a 50 percent radiation dose reduction for patients."
The new scanner is a work in progress that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Saragnese said, but the company hopes it will whet the appetites of the docs and technicians kicking the tires at McCormick Place.
Meanwhile at the show, Toshiba Medical Division will roll out a new CT scanner that already is in some hospitals, has FDA approval and will get a full commercial launch next year.
Toshiba’s new machine looks at about three times as much tissue as machines now available, meaning that in one pass it can take in a person’s entire brain or heart.
The goal is to help emergency room doctors quickly diagnose patients who appear to be having a stroke or heart attack, said Doug Ryan, senior director of Toshiba’s CT business unit for North America.
The company’s engineers have been working nearly a decade on the new machine, he said.
Among their problems was developing computer programs fast enough to cope with all the information gathered by taking such a large look in a single pass.
Getting an accurate diagnosis quickly is especially important for stroke patients. While most strokes are caused by clots blocking the flow of blood to the brain, some are caused by broken vessels and bleeding in the brain. Clot-busting drugs and blood thinners might help patients with clots, but they are quite harmful to those who suffer from brain hemorrhaging.
To be effective, stroke therapies should be applied within three hours of onset, said Ryan, and he estimates that Toshiba’s new machine can provide brain images to physicians within 15 minutes.
Equipment is expected to cost $2.5 million.