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Release: Immediate

UIHC first in the nation to snag first-of-its-kind CT scanner

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The department of radiology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) snagged the nation's first new, revolutionary computed tomography (CT) scanner -- the fastest of its type in the world.

The department began using Toshiba's Aquilion Monday, Nov. 23. The only other Aquilion is located in Japan. Radiologists there have used the new CT scanner for several weeks.

"This scanner represents a major advance in medical imaging," said Dr. Michael Vannier, UI professor and head of radiology.

CT scanning allows doctors to "look inside" the body in a non-invasive way. Patients lie on a table with a doughnut-shaped CT device rotating around them. X-rays capture image "slices" of the body. A computer then stacks the slices together to create detailed, three-dimensional pictures of particular areas that physicians need to examine.

Toshiba has made dramatic advances in CT technology. The Aquilion CT scanner makes a full rotation in a mere 0.5 seconds. The device reconstructs images at up to 12 per second, enabling physicians to perform live observations. Most CT scanners on the market today take at least twice as long to produce images. The Aquilion's speed is even more remarkable considering that when UIHC first began using CT scanners in 1975, each image slice took 90 seconds to make. Aquilion's faster features can be critical in trauma cases and are especially helpful in pediatric patients.

"The Aquilion is so fast that some patients aren't sure they've even had an examination by the time it is over," Vannier said.

Each image slice with the Aquilion is 0.8-mm thick. Eventually, the scanner will be able to slice images even thinner -- 0.5 mm each. These very slim images allow physicians to get previously unobtainable information, such as minute structures in the inner ear or small lesions in the lungs. The thinnest slices that other CT scanners produce are 1-mm thick.

Although the Aquilion has received Food and Drug Administration approval, the scanner is considered an investigative device.

"This scanner will be the cornerstone for rapid evaluation of the chest, abdomen, brain, pelvis and skeleton," Vannier said. "We are working now to improve diagnosis and treatment of cancer, heart disease, arthritis and many other disorders using this technology."

The UIHC department of radiology has five CT scanners, including the new Aquilion and specialized systems such as an Electron Beam CT scanner and CT simulator for radiation oncology. The department performs more than 70 scans each day.