Siemens debuts new Definition for CT with 1st dual source CT scanner

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With a backdrop of New York's Museum of Natural History and an introduction by CNN's Larry King (heart attack survivor and author of "Taking on Heart Disease"), Siemens Medical Solutions today unveiled the world's first dual source CT (DSCT) system. So what's the advantage of two sources? Two different x-ray energies allow physicians to better differentiate, characterize, isolate and distinguish bone, soft tissue and fluid, Siemens and clinical leaders said. Essentially, clearer images faster.

The company called the launch of the SOMATOM Definition "a breakthrough that will redefine the role of CT… making it possible to examine every patient - regardless of condition and heart rate." The system's speed makes it "faster than every beating heart" and capable of imaging full cardiac detail with as much as 50 percent less radiation exposure compared to traditional CT scans, according to Siemens. And just how fast is the gantry rotating at 40 Gs (speed of gravity), said Erich Reinhardt, Siemens Medical Solutions president and CEO.

The system offers dual energy acquisition -- two x-ray sources positioned at 90-degrees to one another, working at different energy settings. Applications include oncology, neurology, cardiology and acute care. But the large focus at the launch was its great potential in cardiac work since the system can image patients with high or irregular heart rates without beta blockers that have been previously needed to slow a patient's heart. The system also enables physicians to better identify and characterize plaque, an early indicator of heart disease.

"With dual source CT, we are entering a new era in CT," Reinhardt said. "This means achieving unprecedented temporal resolution of 83 milliseconds, independent of heart rates and saving up to 50 percent dose in cardiac scans when compared to conventional multislice CT scanners. And there are more applications in which time is of the essence, such as ER patients, and patients with acute chest pain, acute abdominal pain and stroke, even obese patients. With all of these, [the system] achieves high image quality. And this group is growing."

Reinhardt pointed out that Definition in one rotation can measure tissue differentiation between soft tissue, bone, vessels and plaque. "And it can extract information to characterize benign and malignant tissue. And we are exploring new contrast agents."

[Today] we've heard a lot about speed, but it is all about tissue specificity," said Robert Grossman, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Radiology and professor of neurology, neurosurgery, physiology and neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine, which will be one of the first U.S. facilities to install the SOMATOM Definition. "In the ER, in the trauma patient or an acute neurological event, but in addition you want to understand the underlying abnormality and CT can do that. The development of [new] contrast agents will add to tissue specificity. I am very optimistic. It may impact diseases we can not even anticipate today, maybe such as back pain."
Siemens' touted the system as a one-stop tool for diagnosis in acute-care imaging, such as the assessment of patients with acute chest pain, abdominal pain, and suspicion of stroke.

 "With more than 55 million procedures conducted in the United States each year, CT already has a tremendous impact on detecting disease," Reinhardt said. "The Siemens SOMATOM Definition will allow physicians to utilize CT technology in new areas of research, bring the benefits of CT to more patients, and enable physicians to diagnose disease earlier and more cost effectively."

Siemens touts the SOMATOM Definition as faster than any existing CT technology. This dual source CT system uses two x-ray sources and two detectors at the same time - the same 32-slice detectors used in the 64-slice SOMATOM Sensation - compared to all other CT systems that use only one source and detector. With 0.33 seconds per rotation, electrocardiogram-synchronized imaging can be performed with 83-millisecond temporal resolution, independent of the heart rate, resulting in motion-free cardiac images.

It features a 31-inch bore opening and a 79-inch scan range, which increases patient comfort and access and allows clinicians to image more of the body in less time. With the SOMATOM family of products, it shares z-Sharp Technology, the STRATON x-ray tube and CARE solutions.

The first SOMATOM Definition was installed at the University of Erlangen, Germany, last month and is being used for technical and clinical research as well as regular patient care.

The first U.S. installs will take place at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Ohio; New York University Medical Center; William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.; UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., in early 2006.  A unit also is due to be placed in early 2006 at Grosshadern Clinic in Munich, Germany. The system gained FDA clearance in September.