Exam Time Drops From 30 Minutes To Seconds

Athens-Limestone Hospital has joined an elite handful of U.S. hospitals by installing a fast, powerful computed tomography (CT) system - the Aquilion from Toshiba America Medical Systems.

Studies like chest exams, which used to take 20-30 minutes to perform, can now be completed in just 20 seconds at Athens-Limestone Hospital. This faster CT scanner (also called a CAT scanner) is less taxing on patients and faster exam times mean shorter wait times so more patients can be treated faster.

"Limestone County residents do not need to leave our community to have access to the best CT system available today," said Kelli Powers, CEO. "This technology can be lifesaving by providing better, more precise images of bones, organs and internal bleeding than older CT systems. For patients with blood clots, infections, and diseases like cancer, early diagnosis can result in faster, more effective diagnosis and treatment."

While CT uses X-ray technology, it is distinguished from other imaging tools like traditional X-ray and MRI by its ability to display a combination of soft tissue (like muscles, tissue, organs and fat), bones and blood vessels all in a single image. CT scans are used to diagnose kidney, lung, liver, spine, and blood diseases, cancer, tumors, and cysts, as well as blood clots, hemorrhages and infections.

During a CT exam, a patient lies on a table and is slowly moved into the large donut-shaped opening of the scanner. Once inside, a series of X-ray beams create hundreds of cross-sectional pictures that represent slices of the patient's body. Seconds later, the system's computer assembles the slices into three-dimensional images that are interpreted by a radiologist.

The Aquilion can acquire more of those anatomical slices than any other system, thanks to a new technology called multi-slice imaging. In fact, the Aquilion is so fast that it can rotate around a patient's body in only half a second. At that speed, this CT creates a gravitational force of 13 G's - four times the force of the Space Shuttle during lift off. But the only sensation the patient experiences is the ticking of the machine.

As a result, Toshiba's multi-slice technology is among the first that is quick enough to capture images of the body's rapidly moving organs like the heart and lungs, which appear blurry when scanned by traditional CTs. Multi-slice imaging also is especially useful for examining patients who are unable to hold their breath, like trauma victims, acutely ill patients and young children.