After months of facility preparation and staff training, Hunt County and area residents now have at their disposal the latest technology improving diagnosis of heart disease with the 64-slice computed tomography (CT) scanner.

The SOMATOM Sensation 64, purchased by the hospital last year at a cost of $1.4 million, is in place on the second floor of Presbyterian Hospital of Greenville and is being used in testing patients.

What this means to the patient, says Diagnostic Imaging Director Joe Hartley, is a non-invasive, virtually pain-free accurate picture of heart disease and the severity of strokes and trauma injuries. It also means a better diagnosis by a test that will be much more comfortable and convenient for the person on the table.

The equipment, touted by its maker, Siemens, to be the world’s first CT scanner able to take 192 images of the heart per second, takes anywhere from 6 to 15 seconds to complete, cutting drastically the time the patient has to hold perfectly still and hold his or her breath, says Hartley.

In the case of trauma care, the body can be scanned from head to pelvis is 15 seconds. Brain scans can be done in about five minutes as opposed to an hour. The clarity is exceptional, regardless of size and weight of the patient.

“What we’re looking at is a scanner that is 64 times faster than the old 1-slice scanner we’ve been using,” said Kyle Moore, the CT/MRI coordinator, who along with fellow CT/MRI technologist Kevin Kenner, have been undergoing intense training. Critical Care Registered Nurses Christy Hutchins and Jan Buck have also been trained for the procedure.

“This is no small potatoes issue,” said Hartley.

In a world where we are bombarded with television commercials and newspaper and magazine ads about coronary disease and the build-up of plaque in our coronary vessels, the 64-slice can give us a picture of both hard and soft plaque (the silent killer), says Hartley. It also provides a calcium scoring and a Left Ventricular Analysis (LVA) which is a functional study of the heart and how well it functions.

“What we have is a way to give the patient a comprehensive analysis of associated risk factor for the probability of a cardiac event,” said Hartley.

According to Siemens officials the scanner, in some cases of acute chest pain, can eliminate the need for other time-consuming testing such as electrocardiograms and stress tests, and the need for invasive surgeries such as cardiac catheritization.

The hospital cost to the patient for the test itself is $600, not including medications or radiologist and doctors’ fees, Hartley said. It will provide additional benefits to those on Medicare which does not cover anything less than the 64-slice scanner for Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA).

Patients must be referred by their family physician or a cardiologist for the test except in the case of emergencies or trauma care, Hartley said. He said the patients are provided a list of all the “do's” and “don’ts” as part of the preparation for the test.

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