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New CT scanner offers advantages for MMH physicians, patients

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MASSENA - Christmas came early for the Medical Imaging Department at Massena Memorial Hospital, but it was a present that would be hard-pressed to fit under any Christmas tree.

The early holiday present is a new piece of equipment officially known as a Siemens Somatom Definition AS+ 128-slice CT system.

CT scans are used by physicians in the detection and monitoring of cancer and other serious diseases. The machines take a series of X-ray slices of the body to build a 3-D internal image.

Robert Elsner, director of the hospital’s Medical Imaging Department, said the new CT scanner is a gift not only for the hospital and its physicians, but also for the patients because of the advantages it provides over their previous 16-slice CT scanner.

“Our 16-slice CT system served us well, producing high-quality imaging in support of our providers and in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients,” he said. “However, CT system have, and continue to evolve at a rapid rate. We felt it was important that our providers and their patients have access to the benefits of these newer technologies.”

Mr. Elsner said they purchased the new CT system because it addressed four key concerns - patient safety, diagnostic and imagine quality, patient limitations and expanding care and service options.

He said the new 128-slice CT system provides a lower dose of radiation while improving on the quality of the images.

“The general underlying principal is no radiation is safe. We use the lowest dose that is diagnostically acceptable,” he said.

The dose varies, depending on a number factors such as the size and weight of the patient and the part of the body they’re examining, Mr. Elsner said.

We have no control over that,” he said.

Mr. Elsner noted their job is to use the diagnostic tool in the most effective way, but with the lowest achievable dose. The new CT scanner offers them “at least a dozen dose reduction strategies,” he said. As part of the pre-scan phase, the system looks at what needs to be scanned and automatically adjusts the factors to provide the lowest possible, effective dosage.

“From a safety perspective, the system is a ‘low dose’ scanner. This system goes up to 60 percent. In past studies we have seen as high as 75 percent reductions. Simply, we will be able to perform scans at radiation dose reductions of up to 60 percent without loss in diagnostic detail and image quality,” Mr. Elsner said.

“This is important, as CT has become a frequent and essential first use tool in the valuation and diagnoses of patient conditions. Because of this increased use, we had to find a way to deliver the same quality imaging while remaining a commitment to keep our patient’s radiation dose to an absolute minimum,” he said.

Mr. Elsner added that the new system has special protocols and dose reduction strategies for children and infants. That, he said, ensures that imaging performed on children is done safely and at the lowest achievable dose.

In most cases, patients will find themselves on the CT scanner for less time than they did with the hospital’s former 16-slice CT scanner. A 128-slice system provides 128 images to speed up the scan time, and also allows them to take slices at lower increments to provide more details.

The new CT system also allows them to work with bariatric patients, those whose weight and shape couldn’t be accommodated with the older CT system. The Siemens system, which has an 80-centimeter opening, will accommodate up to 650 pounds, according to Mr. Elsner.

“Not everyone is an ideal body weight and, as such, we made sure that the Siemens Somatom Definition AS+ contained special features to allow us to address the imaging needs of that population. We wanted to make sure all of our equipment was bariatric capable. We do what we can with the technology out there. We don’t want to send patients away,” he said, noting they can scan the patient from head to toe without moving them.

Hospital officials purchased the CT system with an eye toward the future - what they would be able to provide as the need grows, Mr. Elsner said. That includes applications that will allow them to do a virtual colonoscopy, low-dose lunge screening and advanced cardiac imaging. The cardiac imaging will be a growing area, he predicted, as heart complications increase with a upward trend in obesity.

“Cardiac is not real profitable. We think that’s going to change,” he said. “Massena Memorial Hospital continues to pursue opportunities to expand care and service when possible. This includes insuring that advanced technology not only meets current needs, but whenever possible includes features and/or upgrades to address future needs or trends in the healthcare arena.”

Mr. Elsner said he expects the new system to last at least eight to 10 years.

“The last scanner was a workhorse,” he said.

Dr. Terrence Schumpert, a radiologist at Massena Memorial Hospital, welcomed the new system.

“We are very excited to have this wonderful diagnostic tool for our patients. The CT Scanner is a workhorse for the Medical Imaging Department for emergency room patients and outpatient exams. This new CT scanner does faster imaging and has a reduction of radiation without sacrificing image quality, which is key for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of our patients,” Dr. Schumpert said.

“The Siemens Somatom AS+ will allow us to do additional diagnostic tests such as coronary CTA (Computed Tomography Angiogram) evaluation of the blood vessels of the heart,” he said. “For pediatric patients the feature of radiation dose reduction is important for the younger patients who can be more sensitive to the dose. Another additional feature is it allows us to image patients who could not be imaged before with CT up to 675 pounds.”

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