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Advanced CT Imaging Latest Imaging Solutions and Future Trends

Posted Dec 06 2010 12:00pm

In 2009, the demand for CT imaging/scanning systems in USA touched $3.6 billion with substantial potential in the near future. Computed Tomography (CT) systems are fast emerging as the most widely used scanning tools in medical industry and its area of applications ranges from emergency medicine to CT angiography. Consequently, it is time to discuss the aspects of this revolutionary technology as well as what promises it holds in the near future.
Sometimes known as Computed Axial Tomography (CAT), a CT scan refers to a non-invasive medical scanning/imaging technology. The method is used by physicians to diagnose and treat several health problems.
The technique here is to take many X-ray pictures of the targeted body section in such a way that all these pictures can be rotated about a single axis of rotation. The final 3D image is prepared by combining the images using computer operated software which clearly shows the body’s internal sections and structures.

64-Slice CT Scanner: Latest CT Imaging Technology

  • Few years ago, the most used CT scanning technology was the 16-slice CT scan.
  • In order to take scans, the patients had to hold his/her breath for about 25-40 seconds. This is because the heart is always moving (pumping blood) and images are to be taken when it is comparatively still.
  • As such, the scanning procedure took time and the already weakened patient was further put to stress.
  • However, the latest 64 slice CT imaging technology has eliminated all this.
  • Today, with the help of advanced 64 slice CT scanner, physicians can quickly perform the same scanning procedure in less time.
  • Furthermore, the images are much clearer. Using high-speed mechanics and image processing software, the 64-slice CT scanner is able to collect a high-resolution picture of a brain, heart or both lungs.
  • What’s more!  The whole process takes just 5-6 seconds. An entire body scan takes around 30 seconds and patient doesn’t even have to hold his breath.
  • The greatest advantage of this method is in diagnosing diseases of the coronary arteries. Unlike the 16-slice method, which was utterly painful and required a large needle to be taken in the groin, and almost 6-8 hours of stay in the hospital, the latest 64-slice method, can scan the heart and its arteries in just a matter of few seconds.
  • Another benefit of this technology is the non-invasive imaging i.e. the procedure is painless.

The Applications

There are many non-invasive imaging technologies out there. So, what makes CT scanning (especially 64-slice) the favorite among the doctors? Here are the people who can use this technology:

  • Patients with low risk of heart disease and congenital heart problems
  • patients experiencing atypical chest pain
  • those detected with carotid arteries disease
  • patients who have had a stroke
  • patients detected with a blood clot in their lung
  • cancer patients

Coronary Scanning: The niche that benefited the most

  • Traditionally, non-invasive techniques used to detect coronary diseases (through stress-treadmill testing and Myocardial Perfusion scan) did not provide accurate diagnosis of coronary diseases, especially when the coronary luminal diameter was more than 70 percent.
  • Also, they cannot detect the susceptible plaques (though they do not cause any substantial functional stenoses). They also cannot detect whether or not sub-clinical atherosclerosis is present or not.
  • The latest Coronary CT Angiography (CCTA) helps overcome these shortcomings. In the field of coronary artery imaging, the detection of coronary blockages is integral to the success of a patient’s recovery.
  • The latest technology performs the imaging of coronary arteries using a Multi-Detector CT scan called MDCT.
  • When a patient holds breath, high-resolution images of the coronary arteries can be recorded.
  • Earlier, 16-channel MDCT scanner had a lower volume coverage thereby increasing breath holding time to 30-40 seconds.
  • The modern 64 MDCT scanner lowers this time to just 7 to 10 seconds. Emerging 256-slice CT scanners further reduce this time to around 1 to 2 seconds.

Safety

  • The advantages associated with this latest CCTA technology far outweigh the disadvantages.
  • There are some downsides to this technology. The procedure uses iodine-based contrast agents that can pose risks due to radiation exposure while the scan is performed.
  • However, this is hardly any disadvantage since the 64-slice MDCT uses a very low quantity (50cc) of iodinated contrast.
  • The future ‘cone-beam’ scanners eliminate this completely.
  • Radiation risk is another disadvantage of this technology. It must be understood that every CT procedure involved slight exposure to radiation. This is called ‘Radiation dose’.
  • It is important to limit this radiation dose to leverage the risk-benefit value of this marvelous technology.
  • The CCTA technology counteracts this problem by traversing the X-ray in the anterior-posterior direction instead of the lateral direction.
  • Further, proper management of the settings and protocols of equipment, the radiation risk associated with CCTA can be minimized.

The future of Advanced CT Imaging sure looks promising and hopefully more and more patients can benefit from these modern advancements.

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