Within five beats of the human heart, the 64 Slice CT Scanner will take anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 single images of the heart. Within minutes, this massive number of images can be transformed into a 3-D model of the heart capable of being used to diagnose heart disease in its earliest form.

The revolutionary technology of the 64 Slice CT Scanner allows radiologists and cardiologists to view the heart in greater detail than ever before. In addition, the 3-D model is built so that piece by piece, various elements of the heart and arterial system can be separated and examined. This ultimately leads to a faster and more accurate diagnosis — and the possible avoidance of an invasive procedure.

"The 64 Slice is truly an amazing technological advancement when diagnosing heart disease, particularly when compared to the 16-slice machines that have been the standard," says Ricky Stonicher, East Jefferson General Hospital director of radiology. "Because of the increased clarity and detail on every aspect of the heart and surrounding areas, we can give a more reliable diagnosis."

Scanning technology has been around for many years and has been a life-saving tool. The 64 Slice, like its predecessors, is essentially a high-speed camera that rotates around the body to capture a desired image, or slice, of a particular area of the body. For most areas of the body, the 16-slice technology is perfectly capable of being used and will continue as a primary piece of equipment. For cardiac patients, however, the new 64 Slice has tremendous potential to benefit them as well as to provide a better overall experience.

It is the speed at which the 64 Slice rotates and snaps images that is most beneficial. The advantage it has over the previous equipment is being able to get a clearer look at the heart, which is in constant motion. This can create a blurry or distorted view. This distortion limits the ability to see smaller buildup in the arteries and other heart-related problems in the earlier stages. Now, the ability to take more images in a shorter amount of time creates one of clearest, non-invasive looks at the inner workings of the heart possible.

"This gives us the flexibility to immediately look for areas of concern inside the heart," says Stonicher. "At the same time, we can also see other areas around the heart, specifically, the lungs and pulmonary vessels to look for additional problems."

It is also a much more patient-friendly way to perform the scan. The process on slower machines would require about eight to 10 heartbeats and for patients to hold their breath for longer periods of time. The 64 Slice allows patients to hold their breath for under 10 seconds and needs only the four to five heartbeats.

Another advantage is its design for people who are not candidates for heart catheterization, the invasive process of inserting a tube in the artery, often in the leg area, and traced to the heart to look for blockages and coronary diseases. If needed, stent and balloon procedures may be performed at the same time. The 64 Slice is not a replacement for the catheterization, rather a non-invasive way to see if catheterization is necessary.

"Having a diagnostic tool such as this allows us to screen patients who are not yet candidates for a catheterization and is a big plus," says Stonicher. "If something is found that needs further examination, that is usually the next step. But if we are able to clear that patient through a quick CT, that patient is much better off and doesn't need to worry about an invasive procedure."

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