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Imaging at The Queen's Medical Center recently made major upgrades in technology. All CT scanners have been replaced with the latest, high tech scanners. In addition, a 1.5 Tesla MRI scanner was also installed. The new MRI scanner uses advanced technology software to provide better and more imaging capabilities to radiologists.

CT, or CAT (computerized axial tomography), scanning, uses x-ray technology, while MRI (magnetic resonance tomography) uses magnetism and radio frequency technology. Although there is some overlap in the two technologies, CT scanning is much faster, taking as little as 10 to 20 minutes for multiple areas of the body, so it is useful for diagnosing trauma patients. MRI scanning is better on soft tissues like the spinal cord and muscles, but can take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how many parts of the body need scanning.

Queen's purchased two 64-slice CTs and one 16-slice CT. The old CTs were 2- and 4- slice scanners. "Slice" refers to the number of detectors in a scanner. The new CTs are extremely fast and significantly reduce the motion factor. They can image a "slice" of tissue just 0.5 millimeter in thickness, 50% thinner than the old ones, and have greatly increased image clarity to detect smaller lesions. Because more anatomical information can be seen than previously thought possible, problems such as blood clots, infections and cancer can be diagnosed earlier with greater detail and clarity. Also, new computer software can generate three dimensional images from any angle. The speed of the 64-slice CTs allow Queen's radiologists to perform cardiac CT scanning—the imaging of the heart in motion—for the diagnosis of coronary artery disease. The 16-slice scanner is being used for fluoroscopies. When a physician performs a biopsy, they can "see" organs in real time—like watching them on TV—to guide the needle for a faster and safer procedure. For patients, exam times are shorter and there is reduced x-ray exposure.

Down the hall, the new "short bore," 1.5 Tesla MRI allows patients to literally see the light at the end of the tunnel. MRI staff will be able to talk many mildly claustrophobic patients through exams. "Tesla" refers to the strength of the magnetic field; a stronger magnet means better quality images and shorter scan times. Queen's has one long bore and, with the new MRI, two short bores (4 feet deep).

The new MRI will cut scan time in half for inpatients and outpatients. However, the feature which makes the new MRI stand out is the advanced technology software that will be used with it. The software allows physicians to detect the spread of brain tumors earlier by defining white fiber tracks that connect the various areas of the brain. It can also see brain injury otherwise invisible on older MRI scanners, detect prior brain injuries, hemorrhages and congenital abnormalities. Queen’s is the first in Hawai’i to use the advanced technology software.

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