A virtual heart model is compiled from 1,800 to 5,000 image slices that are captured on the latest Siemens Somatom 64-slice, dual source CT (computed tomography) scanner. It has two X-ray sources at 90 degrees to each other, and two detectors. The advantage of dual source scanning is that it can scan faster and provide clearer pictures. The X-ray dosage can also be lower.
The heart of a sick patient often beats faster than normal, sometimes at more than 90 beats per minute, which blurs the image on single-source scanners. Sick people often have an irregular beat, which poses another scanning challenge. These scans can be taken when the heart is in its relaxed diastolic phase by synchronizing the image capture with the heartbeat.
CT scanners scan everything from the brain to the toes. A second 40-slice single source CT scanner is available for slower beating hearts and less detailed scans.
The clinic also features a Siemens Magnetom 3 Tesla MRI scanner. Most procedures take just a few minutes. The machine reduces the banging noise heard during a scan and is about 20 decibels quieter than older generation machines.
Vital Images Vitrea software assembles scanned images into a beating heart model (see www.vitalimages.com/products/adv-ct-cardiac.aspx). The software can show 2-D, 3-D or 4-D scans and can separate blood vessels from the surrounding tissue to show blockages and aneurysms in detail. The image processing software runs on workstations with 8 GB of memory using Microsoft's Vista 64-bit operating system.
Patients can swallow a barium meal and have their digestive tract scanned on a Siemens Axiom Luminos TF fluoroscopy system. It can be used to look for hiatus hernias, and generates moving images of their esophagus and stomach. It can also be used to analyze rotator cuff tears, bladder problems and infertility conditions.
For a digital X-ray, the clinic has an automatically operated Siemens Axiom X-ray machine. This sets up the equipment in exactly the right position for each patient — the patient can lie down or stand — saving the technician time. "Abdomen supine" means the patient lies on his back and the X-ray sensor automatically moves to the horizontal, parallel to the bed. (The bed is made of carbon fiber, which is very thin but can handle the weight of three adults.) For an upright chest X-ray, the detector lifts up and rotates to a vertical position away from the bed so that the patient can stand in front of it. The X-ray source aligns itself with the detector, at the precise distance from it for a clear image.
I asked Qumara Ahmadi, director of imaging services, why he selected Siemens from his short list of three major vendors. "Image quality, uniformity of applications, integrated workflow, patient comfort, fast scanning times and diagnostic accuracy," were his reasons. He also reminded me that demo images often look much better than those with abnormalities that he sees in real patients.
I hope you don't need to go to the clinic, but if you do, early, accurate diagnosis can save lives. We are privileged to have some of the world's best imaging equipment and medical staff right on our doorstep.
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