The University of Chicago Hospitals have installed the Brilliance 64-slice CT scanner by Philips, the first such system in the US. From the recent press release:
The second 64-slice computed tomography scanner ever produced by Philips Medical Imaging, and the first to reach the United States, has been installed and is now in clinical use at the University of Chicago Hospitals.
The scanner, which has four times as many detectors as a typical multi-detector CT scanner, combines unrivaled image quality with remarkable speed. It can produce detailed pictures of any organ in a few seconds and provide sharp, clear, three-dimensional images, including 3-D views of the blood vessels, in an instant…
A 40-slice scanner collects images covering 20 to 32 millimeters in a single pass and a tightly packed 64-slice device can cover about 40 millimeters at a pass, which takes 0.4 seconds.
At that rate, a 64-slice scanner can gather a high-resolution image of a heart, brain or a pair of lungs in about five seconds. A scan of the whole body, (in search of a blood clot, for example, that has become a source of emboli) takes about 30 seconds.
The technology has been particularly exciting for studying the beating heart, providing the first clear non-invasive images of the heart and its major vessels. The scans can be timed to use only images gathered between contractions, so that the heart and its vessels can be seen without the blurring caused by motion.
The scanners are beginning to have an impact on cancer diagnosis and treatment as well. Nearly 60 percent of CT scans at the University of Chicago Hospitals are done for cancer. The speed and precision of these new scanners not only improves the image quality, but also “lets us look at dynamic processes,” Vannier explained. “Instead of just monitoring changes in tumor size, we can watch the perfusion of a contrast agent as it moves toward, around and through a tumor,” he said. “This can provide an early view of how a patient is responding to therapy. It helps us predict, rather than simply describe responses to treatment.”
Other promising indications for multi-slice scanners include evaluation of plaque within the carotid arteries (5 to 8 seconds), searching for pulmonary emboli (5 seconds, less than an easy breath hold), coronary artery imaging (10 seconds, including distal segments and multiple arterial branches).
The scans have their own limitations. Although the scanner table is built to support up to 450 pounds, it can be difficult to accommodate patients who are morbidly obese. Each scanner costs between $1.5 million to $2 million.