The integration of positron emission tomography and computed tomography, known commonly as PET-CT, has given physicians the ability to diagnose and treat disease with exceptional accuracy, but the technology still has the potential to reach new levels of performance. St. Joseph's/Candler is soaring far above that next level with the installation of a new Biograph mCT imaging system in the Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion (LCRP).
The system, built by Siemens, allows PET-CT scans to be performed in half the time and with a reduction in the radiation dose of up to 50 percent. These benefits are crucial to physicians like Thomas H. Philbrick, MD, a radiologist who is also the Chairman of St. Joseph's/Candler's Imaging Services.
"Our first patient took nine minutes," Philbrick says of the PET/CT's first day of operation at the LCRP. "Previously it would have taken, at a minimum, twice that amount of time. Yet this machine also requires a lower radiation dose and provides better detail."
The scanner was also designed with a large open scanning zone to help alleviate the sense of claustrophobia that some patients experience in conventional PET-CT systems.
For physicians, the benefits of the faster scan are faster patient results, delivered in sharp, highly detailed images.
"This machine has increased sensitivity over previous machines," Philbrick says.
Dr. Philbrick notes that the scanner is useful in the treatment of the vast majority of cancers, though it is not as sensitive for prostate cancer, melanoma, or lymphoma. He uses the scans in the beginning of treatment to help determine the stage of the cancer. Patients will frequently be scanned in the middle of treatment to help assess the effectiveness of that treatment.
"Following completion of treatment, I use the PET/CT scanner to monitor the patient for evidence of any kind of recurrence," Philbrick says.
The Biograph mCT imaging system at the LCRP is the only one in the region. Dr. Philbrick believes his colleagues will share his excitement about this new addition to St. Joseph's/Candler's imaging capabilities.
"Radiologists are very concerned with radiation doses given to patients who are being imaged," Philbrick says. "We focus on the balance between the diagnostic information we receive from the scan and the radiation given to the patient. This scanner actually helps to reduce the radiation dose while providing images with a better resolution."