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New CT Technology at LGH Enables Earlier Diagnosis, More Effective Treatment

 Lowell, MA - A state-of-the-art Computed Tomography (CT) scanner at Lowell General Hospital will enable doctors to more effectively detect and treat life-threatening illnesses and conditions, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and lung disease.

Photo Caption: CT Scan Supervisor Kathy Mullen of Lowell, assists Patricia Wyatt Walsh of Pepperell, the first patient to use Lowell General Hospital's new 64-slice CT scan.

The Brilliance "64-slice" CT scanner from Philips Medical Systems is the most advanced technology available in CT scanning. The first of its kind in the Merrimack Valley, the scanner produces split-second, high-quality three-dimensional images in far less time than typical CT scans. For patients, this means shorter exam times, reduced X-ray exposure, more rapid results, and a safe alternative to invasive diagnostic procedures.

"The technology is stunning," said Normand E. Deschene, President and Chief Executive Officer at Lowell General Hospital. "This scanner can produce unrivaled image quality and detail with remarkable speed, enabling much more in-depth analysis of very complex anatomy. It has changed what our radiologists can look for and how they look at it when they find it."

CT -or "CAT scan" - combines x-rays with computer technology to record images of a patient's anatomy to help doctors rule out or confirm the presence of disease or injury. The patient lies on a table and is moved incrementally through a donut-shaped scanner while an x-ray beam is projected through cross sections of their anatomy and recorded on electronic detectors. In a conventional CT scanner, with between four to 16 detectors, this information is sent to a computer that produces a "slice", a cross-sectional, one-dimensional image.

The new scanner at LGH - with 64 detectors - uses advanced technology to reconstruct those individual "slices" into a 3D image of the entire area scanned, giving a detailed a high-resolution image, according to Jonas Berman, MD, Director of Radiology at Lowell General Hospital. He said the scanner also has capability of CT angiography, allowing physicians to evaluate arterial systems in minute detail. It can scan a heart, brain or a pair of lungs in about five seconds. A scan of the entire body takes about 30 seconds.

Because of the lightning-fast speed, these images can be shared quickly with referring physicians and surgeons, allowing for immediate treatment planning. This is critical in trauma cases in the Emergency Department, where physicians may have to make life and death decisions within minutes, Berman said.

The shorter exam time also makes the CT experience more pleasant for patients. "Older patients, children and those with breathing difficulties or other distress will really appreciate the shorter exams," Berman said. "We'll have them in and out much faster, and their doctors will be able to access detailed, definitive results within minutes." In many cases, this may eliminate the need for sedation.

All CT scanners use x-rays; however, the new Brilliance scanner uses a significantly lower amount of x-ray energy than many of the other CT systems on the market. "While we need the critical anatomical information we get from a CT scan, we always want to limit the x-ray dose to the absolute minimum possible, especially for children," Berman said. "The new scanner features unique technology that ensures we get exceptional images without increasing the x-ray dose to the patient."

The new Brilliance scanner also has a table weight capacity of up to 440 pounds, making the CT option easily available to larger patients.

The 64-slice CT scanner is just the latest advancement in technology at Lowell General Hospital, which has offered comprehensive health care to the people of Greater Lowell for more than 100 years. The hospital's wide range of services include maternity and pediatric services in affiliation with Tufts-New England Medical Center/Floating Hospital for Children; The Cancer Center in affiliation with Dana-Farber/Partners CancerCare; and 24-hour emergency and trauma care, including a state-designated Primary Stroke Service and primary cardiac angioplasty.

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