By Denise Sloan Smart
Barton HealthCare system
South Lake Tahoe - Using the new state-of-the-art 64-slice Computed Tomography (CT) scanner at Barton Memorial Hospital, you could now find out in advance if you have the same heart disease that claimed the lives of one of your parents and grandparents.
This type of early detection test, which takes less than 10 seconds, would give you the opportunity to make some lifestyle changes and alter the course of what would have been your doom.
Barton's new Brilliance CT scanner from Philips Medical Systems features advanced technology that produces split-second high quality images, permitting doctors to see more anatomical detail in a fraction of the time needed for other tests. Now doctors are able to more effectively detect and treat a range of life threatening illnesses including cardiovascular disease, the nation's leading killer.
The possibility of discovering heart and vascular disease in an early stage, before the onset of serious symptoms, will help doctors recommend the most effective treatments and lifestyle changes to reduce risk and save lives.
According to radiologist Len Holmgren, M.D., â€œWe can obtain whole heart examinations in less than 10 seconds. With the speed and specialized software of this new scanner, we have overcome the challenges that prevented us from offering such definitive and non-invasive cardiovascular exams of the past.
â€œWe scan at such an incredibly fast speed, it's like taking a still photograph of a hummingbird,â€ Holmgren said.
Looking at the outside of the heart isn't the only thing important about the images Barton's doctors are able to inspect.
â€œWe see the whole heart, we can watch it contract and evaluate its function and efficiency,â€ said radiologist Jeff Behar, M.D. â€œMost importantly we can check each of the individual arteries up close and rotate those images 360 degrees.
â€œOutside of Barton, the nearest healthcare facility to offer this same heart scan exam is in Sacramento. In Nevada it is located in Las Vegas,â€ Behar said.
Patients needing a CT scan will find that Barton's new scanner offers a much more pleasant experience. From start to finish the procedure takes less than 10 minutes, while the actual scan, which produces more than 3,000 images, takes less than 10 seconds.
â€œOlder patients and those with breathing difficulties really appreciate the shorter exams,â€ said Behar. â€œWe have them in and out much faster, and their doctors are able to access detailed, definitive results.â€
Another advantage the hospital sees is the ability to provide large patients with a CT scan option. The new scanner has a table weight capacity of up to 440 pounds.
A CT scan produces a cross-section image which helps the clinician to rule out or confirm the presence of certain diseases, and in some cases to evaluate the extent of injuries to a trauma patient. The patient is placed on a table and moved incrementally through the donut-shaped scanner while an X-ray beam is projected through their body. The X-ray energy passes through the patient and is recorded on electronic detectors. That information is then sent to a specialized computer that reconstructs the information into individual slices and combines them sequentially into a comprehensive image. The thinner the slices, hence Barton's 64-slice, the more revealing the detail is in the images and the more definitive the test results.
â€œThis technology is absolutely amazing,â€ said Holmgren, while demonstrating a rotating 3D image of a patient's heart on a large flat screen computer monitor. â€œWe're obviously very excited about it and thrilled that Barton had the foresight to purchase the very latest technology available. As radiologists we're benefiting from it and our patients are definitely benefiting from it.â€
If a person is having symptoms of heart disease, their medical insurance will usually pay part of the cost of the CT scan. If someone is not having symptoms, but simply want a clear picture of their heart's current health, it'll come out of their pocket to the tune of around $1,300.