Now possible: Higher-definition CT scans at a lower radiation dose

January 19, 2013 | by

Fears about the potential radiation dangers of CT scans have been growing nationwide in recent years, with some health experts urging doctors to think twice before ordering the scans. But with cancer treatment, CT scans are hardly optional.

128-slice CT scan

City of Hope's new CT scanner offers high-resolution images at lower levels of radiation exposure compared to older machines. (Credit: GE Healthcare)

Now City of Hope has become one of the few hospitals in the nation, and the first in Southern California, to use a high-definition – but low-dose – CT scanner.

The scanner enables physicians to obtain higher-diagnostic-quality images than most CT scanners in use today but at lower radiation doses to the patients. The Discovery CT750 HD with Veo technology is described by manufacturer GE Healthcare as the world’s first high-definition CT scanner.

CT scans, also known as X-ray computed tomography, are used by physicians in the detection and monitoring of cancer and other serious diseases. The machines take a series of X-ray slices of the body to build a 3-D internal image. Current CT devices scan between 16 to 64 slices of the designated area to build the internal image of the body.

But the scans come with risks, and a New York Times story points out that CT scans alone are believed to account for 1.5 percent of all cancers that occur in the United States.

“All imaging has increased, but CTs account for the bulk of it,” Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a specialist in radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Times. “There’s clearly widespread overuse. More than 10 percent of patients each year are receiving very high radiation exposures.”

City of Hope’s new device scans 128 slices to provide increased resolution that can help physicians better differentiate tumors from other tissues. Because CT scans are built from multiple X-rays, the scanners expose the patient to higher radiation than a single X-ray. Although higher-definition scans usually mean more X-rays, and thus more radiation, the new scanner changes that ratio.

Any ability to minimize patient exposure to radiation is a benefit. This is especially true in cancer patients, many of whom already receive radiation therapy on top of frequent diagnostic imaging to track their response to cancer treatments. The new high-definition CT scanner can offer 128-slice images while still reducing the radiation exposure up to 60 percent compared to an older 16-slice scanner.

The new CT scanner is able to increase image detail with lower doses through the use of improved technology and better software. GE Healthcare touts the combination of research, training, technology and clinical practice to achieve diagnostic image quality at optimized dose.

City of Hope has the first installation of GE Healthcare’s Discovery CT750 HD with Veo technology in Southern California. The high-definition CT scanner has been installed at select institutions worldwide, including Massachusetts General Hospital West Imaging, the Mayo Clinic Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.