They can produce animated images, too.
Image: GE Healthcare
By the end of the year, hospitals across the United States will be equipped with the next generation of CT scanners, capable of capturing stunning HD images and videos like this:
Those are actual images of real live patients. Yeah.
The pride of General Electric's healthcare division, the Revolution CT scanner is the product of over five years of research and development.
"We've completely redesigned the whole CT system from scratch," said Scott Schubert, the general manager for GE's CT scanners.
In order to attain such detailed images, they had to make the parts inside the scanner lighter so the whole thing could rotate faster, capturing full image 40 percent faster than traditional scanners. They also made the range of the scanners wider, so they can capture a 16 centimeters section in one rotation.
"Sixteen centimeters will cover an entire heart, an entire brain, and most other organs of a patient in a single rotation. In about a quarter of a second, we can complete most studies, including heart and brain studies, which is extremely fast," Schubert said.
Along with a higher resolution, the quickness and size of the scanner means they can capture a much more detailed image without having to take several shots or worry about the patient shifting about and blurring the image. Schubert compared it to a digital camera with a very fast shutter speed. And taking several images in a row allows for a 3D animated image, allowing doctors to observe things like blood flow, swallowing, or joint motion.
But other than cool images and hypnotic videos, what's the benefit to this souped-up machine?
"One of the most exciting areas where it will make an impact is in heart disease and cardiovascular disease, which is the number one leading cause of death in western countries," Schubert said. He said heart disease often doesn't show symptoms and is difficult to detect, but being able to get images of the heart without a lot of stress or radiation will make it easier to diagnose.
"The physician can non-invasively look at the coronary arteries and look at the miocardia of the heart and essentially see whether there's any disease or any pre-disease such as plaque build up," he said. "We're moving the paradigm shift from late detection and sudden cardiac death to early detection and diagnosis."
It also means patients are exposed to much less radiation. While a typical CT scan produces between one and ten milliSieverts of radiation, the new machine can perform a scan with as little as 0.2 mSvs.
Right now, the West Kendall Baptist Hospital in Florida has the only Revolution CT in the country—they tested it on a six-month trial last year—but more are on the way. Schubert said they have about 100 orders and will begin installing them in hospitals around the world this year.