NORTH ADAMS --North Adams Regional Hospital officials believe an investment of more than $100,000 in new imaging technology for its CT (computed tomography) scanner is already paying off -- they're already seeing an average reduction of radiation exposure of about 65 percent during the scans.
The new imaging technology, called iDose -- a combination of computer software and hardware upgrades, works with the hospital's Phillips "Brilliance" CT scanner, allo-wing it to continue to capture high-resolution images with much lower doses of radiation exposure for patients.
"Before this technology was installed, it's always been a battle of having enough radiation exposure going to the detectors to capture a high-resolution image and not exposing the patient to too m-uch radiation," Chris Whe-eler, lead CT technologist at NARH, said. "With iDose, we're able to reduce the amount of radiation dosage being sent to the scanner and still produce high-quality images and diagnostics."
He added, "Prior to the use of iDose, our CT scanner was already using low doses of radiation. That being said, when compared to other types of X-rays, the CT scan is on the higher end. It's not a hand X-ray. It's also important for people to know that we're accredited by the American College of Radiology, the governing body that sets the standards for radiation exposure in any type of X-ray."
CT scanning is distinguished from traditional X-ray by its ability to display a detailed combination of soft tissue: muscles, blood vessels and organs, as well as fat and bone. Radiologists interpret CT scans ordered by a patient's health care provider to diagnose a wide range of conditions involving multiple organ systems, from blood clots, infections and hemorrhages to tumors, fractures and congenital abnormalities.
Wheeler said the iDose software is able to produce the same type of high-resolution images as before, by processing the image multiple times.
"The results are phenomenal. The image quality is the same," he said.
Dr. Jeffrey Bath, chief of medical imaging at the hospital, said any reduction in radiation exposure is good for patients, but those who will benefit the most are patients who need to have CT scans on a regular basis.
"It's good news for our patients who have to have multiple scans over their lifetime and for our young pediatric patients," he said.
After installing the upgrade in November, Wheeler began comparing new CT scans from return patients to their previous scans.
"When we do a scan, the report includes how much of a radiation dose was given," he said. "We've been able to view the scans of the same exact patient, on the same exact machine, for the same exact part of the body."
The lowest reduction of radiation exposure is about 33 percent, while the highest rate of reduction is about 80 percent.
"We're finding an average reduction of radiation exposure of about 65 to 67 percent," Wheeler said. "For someone who needs multiple scans, that's significant. For example, if we have a patient in their 20s with kidney stone problems, they might have nine different CT scans over a period of time. With the new technology, they'll receive a cumulative exposure to radiation equal to three CT scans [prior to the use of iDose]."
While the new technology reduces the amount of radiation used during a CT scan, Wheeler stressed that patients won't notice a change in the way a scan is performed or the length of time needed for a scan.
"Our Phillips Brilliance scanner is about as fast a machine as you can get," he said.
NARH performed more than 5,800 CT scans last year. Purchase of the iDose software and hardware upgrades was done with funds from NARH's capital equipment budget.