New AVH scanner offers inside look |

New AVH scanner offers inside look

John Colson
Aspen Valley Hospital just added the SOMATOM Sensation scanner to its diagnostic imaging department. The new 64-slice CT scanner improves diagnosis and treatment for patients throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Aspen Valley Hospital announced recently that it now has the best available machine for taking a picture of a patient’s insides – with more speed and less discomfort than ever.The machine, a SOMATOM Sensation Scanner, cost $1.4 million – $750,000 of which came from the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation. Hospital representatives said the machine is in use for medical purposes other than cardiac examinations, but that it may not be ready for use in cardiac cases until early next year.Dr. Gordon Gerson, who has been a cardiologist at AVH since the early 1990s, said the new equipment represents “the Holy Grail” of diagnostic imaging equipment, noting that the technology has improved by leaps and bounds in the past five years.

But, Gerson added, the new scanner should not be viewed as anything more than “a complementary tool” to the hospital’s range of techniques for cardiac examination and diagnosis, such as the “nuclear stress test,” which involves the use of dye and exercise on a treadmill.The new scanner takes more images every time it fires; 64 “slices,” or images, as opposed to four “slices” per firing for the old machine, which the hospital purchased in 2001 and has now retired.The new equipment is said to have many other advantages over earlier CT scanners. “For example, we can now scan patients in a single breath hold, which results in more accurate diagnosis while also reducing examination time and increasing patient comfort. This is especially important with pediatric and trauma patients,” said AVH radiologist Dr. Dave Hollander.

According to a statement from the hospital, the new device will help with numerous examinations, such as detecting strokes, head injuries, herniated discs and abscesses; locating fractures; determining the extend of bone and soft-tissue damage in trauma patients; diagnosing changes in various organs; examination of the heart and coronary vessels;[and early diagnosis of lung cancer. With the new scanner, the statement continued, “physicians are now able to look into the coronary arteries without having to introduce a catheter” and make “true-to-detail, three dimensional images of the inside of the heart and other parts of the body.”The scanner, which is relatively new to the medical community, has won some praise:”Superlatives should be applied judiciously. But there’s no denying the fact that the SOMATOM Sensation 64 is the world’s fastest CT scanner … delivering diagnostic image quality that up until now was not thought possible,” says a review on the TechRepublic website.But aside from cardiac diagnosis, declares the review, the new scanner also can be “a decisive factor in the early detection of tumors.”

Gerson said he already has several cardiac patients lined up for CT scans using the new equipment, as soon as it is set up and ready. He also said that, as far as he knows, pricing for use of the new instrument has yet to be determined.John Colson’s e-mail address

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