Eight-year-old Tatiana Medina (shown left) has already had 18 CT scans – more than most people will have in a lifetime – and she’ll need even more in the future.
Fortunately, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL just invested in one of the most advanced CT scan technologies in the world – assuring that such tests are now remarkably safer, faster and more comfortable for Tatiana and other patients.
Medina has her lower leg scanned in the new Aquilion ONE 320 Slice CT scanner at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. The scan is done in one-tenth the time and with 30%–40% less radiation exposure than typical CT scanners.
Medina was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer called osteogenic sarcoma in 2005. After several rounds of chemotherapy, surgeons at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL implanted a titanium prosthesis in her left leg, and removed the cancerous bone.
The precocious little girl has been cancer-free ever since, and despite a slight limp she leads a healthy, happy life at home in West Denver. “She’s been through a lot, but fortunately her doctors have been amazing,” says father Jim Medina, an I.T. network consultant.
Yet Tatiana must endure frequent follow-up CT scans – one about every six months, at present – to make sure the cancer has not returned. And with each CT scan, she is exposed to high doses of radiation, an unavoidable downside to this life-saving imaging technology. Thankfully, Tatiana and other Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL patients requiring a CT scan have just had their safety and comfort improve dramatically.
Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL just invested in a new Aquilion ONE CT scanner, manufactured by Toshiba. The only Aquilion ONE in Colorado (just a few hospitals nationwide own one), it is likely the safest CT scanner ever made, according to P/SL medical radiology director Dr. John Gerhold.
“A typical CT scanner acquires a slice of information that’s about 3.2 cm in thickness, and has to do several rotations around a patient,” Gerhold said.
“The Aquilion ONE acquires a 16-cm thick slice at a time, meaning you can image an organ in a single rotation, sparing a lot of time and radiation exposure. It’s pretty exciting.”
While all human beings encounter low levels of natural, “background” radiation everyday from sources like the sun and the soil, one traditional CT scan can expose a patient to the equivalent of six or more months worth of natural radiation all at once – many times the dose of even most x-rays. John Gerhold, M.D., Director of Medical Radiology at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center. Fortunately, the Aquilion ONE’s speed and volume capabilities translate to 30% to 40% less radiation per scan than other CT models, according to Gerhold. This also means less contrast dye is needed in many patients, further reducing possible complications or side effects.
The new CT machine is especially good news for pediatric patients like Tatiana. Of the seven million or so CT scans on U.S. pediatric patients every year, up to 50% involve sedation beforehand to prevent movement (and maintain the clarity of resulting images), says Dr. J. Gerard Horgan, a pediatric radiologist with Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL.
The Aquilion ONE can scan a child’s head or chest about 10 times faster than older, spiral CT scanners – in roughly 0.35 seconds instead of three to four seconds. The faster scan time has resulted in a “dramatic drop-off” in required sedation of pediatric patients, says Horgan. This also saves money – if no anesthesia needs to be used, that’s one less charge to be billed, with a potential savings of hundreds of dollars.
The CT machine also comes with a software platform called Pure Exposure Pediatric, which automatically adjusts radiation levels based on a child patient’s age, weight, and the body part being imaged. This allows for the smallest necessary radiation dose – nothing more.
The Aquilion ONE’s superior technology is improving the care of other patients as well. The machine is able to create real-time animation of vital measurements such as blood flow, a handy new tool in the early diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
“Beforehand, we could only image select areas of the brain, but with the new scanner we can do the entire brain. This will make diagnosis more accurate, and quickly tell us if therapeutic intervention would be helpful in a stroke patient,” says Gerhold.
As for Tatiana, an aspiring guitarist and singer who has already told her dad she’s considering a career as a doctor someday, what matters most to her is simply not having to lie still as long: “It’s like the old machine, except it takes less time!” she says with a smile.