CT: No Matter How You Slice It - Better, Stronger, Faster

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It's an exciting year for computed tomography debuts at RSNA, with several new systems being unveiled, and advancements in peripheral devices designed to enhance CT imaging studies. Sixty-four channel detectors are the order of the day - but enhancements to 16- and 32-slice scanners are really pushing the field, too.

Siemens Medical Solutions (booth #2729) is showcasing its FDA-approved Somatom Sensation 64 scanner at RSNA 2004. The Somatom Sensation 64 provides 64-slice sub-millimeter imaging per rotation and a fast gantry rotation time at 0.37 seconds. The new system is designed for cardiac, neurology and body imaging applications. Acquisition of 64 slices per rotation is possible through the Straton x-ray tube's "Double z-Sampling" technology, and new Siemens proprietary detector technology. "Double z-Sampling" allows two focal points in the anode by precise deflection of the electron beam within the x-ray tube that generate two overlapping beams to pass the scan field. The double readout of the detector produces 64 slice projections at down to 0.3 mm slice distance. Developed with Speed4D technology, the SOMATOM Sensation 64 includes WorkStream4D for workflow optimization and data handling, syngo InSpace4D for evaluation of the moving heart, and CARE Dose4D for automated real-time dose adaptation.

For the first time, GE Healthcare (booth #2700) will accomplish a global launch of two products simultaneously within the CT segment this year.

The first offering is the LightSpeed VCT (Volume CT), which provides a combination of simultaneous wide volume coverage and high resolution via a 64-channel detector that offers 4 cm coverage and a resolution of 0.35mm. The most significant clinical application for this system will be cardiac studies. LightSpeed VCT reduces the acquisition time for a typical exam from 20 seconds on a 16-slice scanner to about 5 seconds on this device.

This capability is considered a breakthrough, GE says, because once the contrast agent is injected, there is an initial variation of heart rate produced by introduction of the agent, then there is about a five second "golden window" where the heart rate is stable, followed by an increase in heart rate as the breath-hold produces hypoxia. It is important to have a stable heart rate to produce excellent image quality across an entire population of patients who will be imaged.

The LightSpeed VCT can capture an image of any organ in one second, scan the whole body in fewer than 10 seconds and capture images of the heart and coronary arteries in fewer than five heartbeats, according to GE.

The second product launch involves the LightSpeed Pro32 helical multislice CT, which advances the 16 series scanners. This system is described as being incrementally better compared to the 16-slice scanners, and is beneficial for cardiac studies, angiography, and perfusion studies, GE said. Although it does provide 4 cm coverage, the resolution is not up to the standard of the VCT.

Both scanners have an increase in scan rotation speed, moving from 400 milliseconds to 350 milliseconds as a single rotation of the detectors.  Both products will be fully commercially available in the first quarter of 2005.

Philips Medical Systems (booth #7113) is unveiling the Brilliance CT Scanner 64 configuration for the first time at RSNA, along with a new version of the software for the Brilliance workstation (Brilliance Workspace version 2.0). This scanner provides substantial improvements in speed of acquisition, and cardiac studies are one of the primary applications, as are lung imaging studies. Given a patient with emphysema who has a difficult time holding his or her breath, with an exam that can be completed in five seconds, enhanced comfort level is a major issue.

From a software perspective, one of the primary considerations that Philips incorporated into its new version is the ability to interface with any appropriate information system within the healthcare institution. There also is a trademarked capability, Guided Flow productivity qualities that helps the user progress through set-up, acquisition and processing of the data in a time-effective manner designed to improve throughput. New user interfaces have been designed so that information flows to the user in a logical manner, to facilitate higher productivity and shorter training times. Additionally, Philips offers a proprietary post-processing engine that permits reconstruction of up to 40 images in a second.