New CT Scanner Offers Increased Speed, Capabilities for Local Patients

Humboldt General Hospital's new CT scanner is about to revolutionize local non-invasive diagnosis.

The Humboldt County Hospital District Board of Trustees approved the purchase of the 128-Slice Computed Tomography (CT) scanner at its August 27, 2013 meeting. The new machine can scan the entire body in seconds and provide incredibly sharp 3D images of any organ.

Administrative Director of Imaging Pam Wickkiser had originally approached the board for a 64-slice system—a major upgrade from the hospital's current 10-slice imager.

However, with encouragement from Dr. Kurt Kracaw, the hospital's vice chief of staff, board members opted for the more expansive system including several important add-ons that will allow for cardiac and other diagnoses.

"Slice" refers to the number of images a machine can produce in mere seconds. For instance, a 128-slice scanner produces 128 images per rotation. In real-life terms, said Wickkiser, this means the hospital's new scanner can provide a comprehensive view of the coronary arteries in less than five heartbeats.

Plus, the 128-Slice CT delivers non-superimposed and cross-sectional images of the body, which can show smaller contrast differences than conventional x-ray images. Wickkiser said this allows better visualization of differing soft-tissue regions, which could otherwise not be visualized satisfactorily.

"This scanner's ability to quickly and non-invasively spot small tumors, in a check on the lungs for example, or plaque in the case of cardiovascular disease, is making it the preferred option for diagnosis by an increasing number of physicians," said Wickkiser.

The equipment can also be used for cancer diagnosis and treatment. The machine not only monitors changes in tumor size, but physicians can now watch a contrast agent as it moves toward, around and through a tumor. This can provide an early view of how a patient is responding to therapy.

Board members accepted GE's bid for $474,989; in all, the hospital board approved $657,286 for the project, which included funding for a minor remodel of the CT suite, rental of a mobile CT unit until the project's completion, and a major electrical upgrade from Nevada Energy.

"This was a big investment for our department and for our hospital," said Wickkiser, "but we know our patients and our physicians will be thrilled with this new machine's capabilities."

HGH purchased the former CT in 2005. Wickkiser said the machine is still viable, but does not meet the current standard of care, which is 16 slice or more.

She said medical facilities are graded by insurance companies based on their ability to provide certain levels of service. With the former machine, HGH was rated at 82 percent with a "B" rating. With the addition of our new GE VCT Lightspeed 128 slice CT unit we are now rated an "A" facility.

"We're not a 'B' hospital," said Wickkiser. "We're an 'A' hospital and we want our community to know that we have the finest diagnostic tools available to them and their physicians."

She added, "This is an investment we can all be proud of."