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The Latest Diagnostic Imaging Technologies

The New 64-Slice CT Scanner

St. Joseph Hospital Diagnostic Imaging introduces the "Cadillac" of CT Scanners - delivering head-to-toe 3D imaging in less than 60 seconds. Our new CT Scanner will better assist physicians in early diagnosis and treatment by offering a clearer anatomical visualization and improved soft tissue evaluation. This means a more comprehensive diagnosis in less time - and with greater patient comfort. We at St. Joseph Hospital are pleased to be the first to offer this leading technology on the north coast.

Computerized Tomography (CT) combines the use of X-rays with computer technology. Images, or slices, are sent to a computer to produce detailed three-dimensional images. The 64-slice scanner software automatically personalizes scanning parameters to the individual patient.

In 2003, the state-of-the art was a 16-slice scanner that required the patient to hold his/her breath for 30 seconds. The new 64-slice allows for a shorter breath hold (8-12 seconds) and provides high-resolution images with the ability to see from the surface of the skin down to the most minute vessels in the body.

The advantages of the 64-slice scanner are numerous, including:

  • shorter exam times (particularly important for emergency & trauma patients)
  • single, shorter breath-hold scanning (an advantage for child patients)
  • reduced X-ray exposure
  • more rapid results to facilitate the treatment process
  • a safe and cost-effective alternative to invasive diagnostic procedures

The use of the 64-slice scanner in cardiovascular medicine to image the heart is an emerging technology that physicians may begin to use for selected patients in the place of more invasive diagnostic catheterization procedures.

The Power of PET

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) is a non-invasive nuclear medicine scanning procedure which uses positron emitting radioactive isotopes to show three-dimensional functional images, reflecting an organ’s metabolism rather than just its anatomy, as in conventional scanning techniques. PET is used to diagnose and monitor cancer, in addition to diseases of the heart, brain, and lungs. PET allows for the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases in their early stages, yielding better patient outcomes.

PET/CT - the all-in-one full body scan

The newest diagnostic system for detecting cancer at St. Joseph Hospital is called a PET/CT Scan -- the only one of its kind in Humboldt County. It is a combination of Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which detects cellular activity, and Computerized Tomography (CT), which reveals a cross-section of body tissues and organs. In the past, difficulties arose from trying to interpret the results of a CT scan done separately from a PET scan, due to the fact that the patient's body position had changed. By combining these technologies into a single device, the PET/CT Scanner makes it possible to collect both anatomical and biological or metabolic information at the same time -- during a single examination. This provides physicians a much more complete and clearer picture of what is happening in the body. This integrated information permits accurate tumor detection and localization for a variety of cancers, including breast, esophageal, cervical, melanoma, lymphoma, lung, colorectal, head and neck, and ovarian cancer.

The Benefits of a PET/CT Scan include:

  • Improved tumor detection and localization
  • Better monitoring of cancer recurrences
  • Excellent image quality
  • Shorter scan time and improved patient comfort
  • Convenience of a single scan

With the help of a PET/CT scan, physicians can now detect cancers, as well as some heart disease and brain disorders, at a much earlier stage.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) exams enable physicians to see inside the body without using X-rays. Instead, MRI creates images by using radio waves, a computer and a powerful magnet approximately 7,000-times stronger than the magnetic force of the earth. During an exam, the patient lies inside the opening of the magnet. The hydrogen atoms in the patient's body react to the magnetic field, and a computer reads signals from the atom formation and reconstructs data into detailed images of the body's interior.

Our Vantage MRI by Toshiba combines a compact magnet with noise-reduction technology and ergonomic design to produce superior image quality with greater patient comfort, allowing the patient's head to remain outside the tube for most procedures. A new MRI technique called Parallel Imaging, along with Toshiba's patented speeder coil technology, allows the Vantage to capture images in a fraction of the time required by older machines. The faster scans mean less chance of blurring from patient movement, less repositioning during the procedure and less time in the exam room. The Vantage also packs a full 1.5-Tesla field strength -- roughly double the magnetic strength of most 'open' MRI machines -- providing the top quality images needed for the most accurate diagnosis possible.

Because of its ability to image soft tissue, MRI plays a critical role in diagnosing cancer. It can reveal the shape, size and location of tumors, and it is used to monitor tumor growth, including malignant and non-malignant tumors in the brain. MRI is even used to augment mammography tests for breast cancer.