UW News

April 6, 2005

UW Medical Center installs first volume CT scanner in the western United States

UW Medical Center has completed the first installation in the western United States of a next-generation volume computed tomography (VCT) scanner. The Lightspeed VCT, manufactured by GE Healthcare, is able to non-invasively capture images of any organ in one second and capture images of the heart and coronary arteries in fewer than five heartbeats, something no other CT system can offer.

“The superior speed and image quality of the new VCT produces high-resolution studies in seconds,” said Dr. William Shuman, director of radiology at UW Medical Center and vice-chair of the Department of Radiology in the UW School of Medicine. “It will enable our physicians at UWMC to diagnose and treat patients with a variety of illnesses in the shortest time possible.”

The CT exam creates images analogous to a single slice of bread from a whole loaf or a slice from an orange. The Lightspeed VCT is a 64-slice scanner, compared to the 4- and 8-slice scanners previously used at UW Medical Center.

In a single rotation, the system creates 64 credit-card-thin images, totaling 40 millimeters of anatomical coverage, an area about the size of a half dollar coin. These images are combined to form a three-dimensional view of the patient’s anatomy for the physician to analyze.

CT systems, also known as “CAT scanners,” are medical diagnostic tools that allow the visualization of internal structures within the body. This aids physicians in diagnosing disease, viewing internal abnormalities and assessing the extent of trauma damage.

The new 64-slice VCT has the capability to effectively freeze the motion of the heart in a scan and secure extremely high-quality images of coronary arteries in detail.

The VCT scanner will allow physicians to diagnostically scan patients exhibiting acute chest pain in the emergency room quickly and non-invasively for evidence of the three most life-threatening causes of chest pain, all in a single scan.

In one scan lasting just six seconds, coronary artery insufficiency, aortic dissection and pulmonary embolic disease can be found or excluded, Shuman said, along with other causes of chest pain, like pneumonia or a rib fracture.

The new scanner will also aid in detecting vascular disease in the brain and other parts of the body, he said.

“I’m very excited about having this new technology to offer to our patients at UWMC,” Shuman said.

Not only are the VCT scans brief, they require 40 percent less contrast solution injected into the patient before the exam.

“This means a shorter visit and less preparation for each patient,” Shuman said. “With the new scanner, we will be able to examine about four patients per hour, twice as many as with our previous equipment.”

UW Medical Center will be installing a second LightSpeed VCT scanner later this month.


About UW Medical Center

The 450-bed UW Medical Center is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top medical centers, as reflected in surveys of best hospitals, best doctors and nursing excellence. UWMC was ranked ninth among teaching hospitals in the nation last year by U.S. News & World Report.

In addition, UW Medical Center is the leading provider of highly specialized care of patients and consulting services to physicians in the five-state region known as WWAMI–Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho–served by the UW School of Medicine.