Date: 4/4/2007

Community Hospital is first in Northwest Indiana and among first in the country to offer a CT system that uses two x-ray sources to provide the best CT images in the world

MUNSTER—Community Hospital is among the first in the country and the only area hospital to offer a Dual Source CT, the most advanced imaging technology. This technology features a completely non-invasive method to diagnose patients at risk for heart attacks, strokes and a variety of other medical conditions.

With the highest imaging power currently available, the $2 million Dual Source CT produces the clearest imaging for making a diagnosis in less time and with less radiation exposure for patients. This technology is not currently available in Chicago, and Community Hospital is the first to make this advancement available in Indiana.

One of the main advantages of the Dual Source CT over the conventional 64-slice CT Scanner is its ability to capture images more quickly and clearly, which can be particularly critical in cases involving trauma and acute illnesses. This breakthrough CT technology uses two x-ray sources, offering twice the imaging power. Also, doctors can use special software that automatically reduces radiation to the lowest dose possible to the patient.

“This is cutting-edge technology that most of the university hospitals in the country don’t even have at this time,” said Jonathon Lee, M.D., vice chairman, Department of Radiology. “With the Dual Source CT we can obtain the best possible images of the entire body; and the beauty of it is that this can be accomplished with a lower radiation dose to the patient.”

With the increased speed and resolution of the Dual Source CT, physicians at Community Hospital can generate accurate images of the body in three dimensions, instead of the usual two dimensions that has been the standard of CT imaging in the past, Lee said.

“This can be a great asset in surgical and treatment planning,” Lee said. “For instance, now a small lung nodule can be more accurately seen from all angles and the surrounding structures can be clearly marked, which can then help our surgeons to remove the nodule with greater precision and accuracy.”

Another major advantage of the SOMATOM Definition Dual Source CT system, from Siemens Medical Solutions, is the ability to image a beating heart at any heart rate with the patient receiving the lowest possible radiation dose, Lee said.

With other CT scanners, patients are injected with beta blockers to slow the heart because the motion of the beating heart causes blurred images. Since the Dual Source CT scans in less time than it takes the heart to beat, physicians at Community Hospital are able to capture motion-free images of most patients. With this new capability, CT exams may now be an option for individuals who were previously not eligible because they have medical conditions that preclude the use of beta blockers, cardiologist Arvind Gandhi, M.D. said. These patients typically have asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema or other conditions.

The Dual Source CT also provides a non-invasive alternative to a procedure known as a coronary angiogram performed to detect blockages in the arteries. During an angiogram, a thin tube called a catheter is placed through a patient’s blood vessel and guided to the heart. Once the catheter is in place, the physician injects a special dye that can be detected by x-ray to show blockages.

“Coronary angiogram is still one of the most accurate tests to diagnose blockages in the heart, but Computed Tomography Angiograms (CTA) are growing in use and offer a less invasive option,” Gandhi said. “CTA technology has demonstrated the ability to rule out significant narrowing of the major coronary arteries and can non-invasively detect fatty matter in their walls. Doing a CTA with the new Dual Source CT offers significantly better imaging over the conventional 64-slice CT.”

CTA can be a very useful screening tool, especially for women who sometimes have atypical signs and symptoms such as back pain and shoulder pain, Gandhi added. Individuals who have risk factors such as a family history of heart disease, smoking, diabetes, hypertension or an equivocal (abnormal) stress test, are good candidates for the Dual Source CT, Gandhi said. In addition to the angiogram application, Dual Source CT can be used to identify and characterize plaque, an early indicator of heart disease.

Another application expected to grow in use is a CTA of the brain, said neurosurgeon Marc Levin, M.D. During angiograms, physicians look at blood vessels in the brain to check for blockage that can cause strokes.

“The advantage of the Dual Source CT is that it is a non-invasive test,” Levin said. “Also, the pictures come out the same or even better than the angiogram test.”

Candidates for a CTA of the brain would be people who have had strokes, a TIA (a transient ischemic attack that produces stroke-like symptoms), cerebral aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations. The CT also can be used to see blood vessels that may feed either benign or malignant brain tumors, according to Levin.

The purchase of the new CT technology at Community Hospital follows other recent investments in new diagnostic imaging technology, including a new 1.5 Tesla MRI for $1.1 million and digital mammography systems for $900,000.