Unicoi County Memorial Hospital has upgraded its CT imaging equipment and now has an Aquilion 64 CT scanner from Toshiba in operation as of Wednesday. (Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
ERWIN — The more quickly medical caregivers have access to patient information, the more quickly they can act, and Unicoi County Memorial Hospital now has in its possession a piece of equipment that should speed up the patient-imaging process, leading to faster diagnoses and response.
On Wednesday, officials gathered at UCMH to showcase the hospital’s new Toshiba Aquilion 64 Computed Tomography (CT) scanner.
UCMH Administrator Tracy Byers said the new scanner represents a significant upgrade over the hospital’s previous imaging equipment as images can be processed much more quickly. He said the scanning speed is 60 to 75 percent faster than that of the prior equipment, meaning patients will spend “less time on the table” and results will be in the hands of physicians sooner.
“What that means for the patients, especially if they’re coming from the emergency department, is less wait time, quicker results, so less time total spent in our emergency department, quicker results get to the physicians so decision can be made quicker,” Byers said. “It also has full cardiac capabilities, so we can actually do heart CTs here which never were available previously.”
UCMH previously used a 16-slice CT scanner, meaning it only had one-fourth of the imaging capability it now has. Stephen Greiss, CT zone business manager for Toshiba, said the tube that generates the images makes three rotations around the patient every second. He said during a typical “study,” which can last from 30 seconds to several minutes, anywhere from 500 to 3,000 images can be generated with the new scanner.
“It’s very quick,” Greiss said. “The reconstruction side is what really makes a difference, so when you start generating all those images, how fast can I get to see them. This system reconstructs at about 40 frames per second, so it’s very fast.”
But Greiss said the new scanner not only brings with it great speed, it also bring enhanced image quality.
“What this scanner brings to this rural setting is high-end care,” Greiss said. “It’s going to not only expedite things in the sense that, as we mentioned, patients getting their scans much faster and getting the emergency department patients in and out, but it’s going to raise the quality, image quality, as far as what they’re able to see. Added capabilities like the cardiac is huge.”
Along with new cardiac capabilities, Greiss also said the new scanner will give UCMH the opportunity to triage potential early trauma patients.
“It really opens up all kinds of new avenues for them to consider in the future as they continue to support the community and grow,” Greiss said.
Both Byers and Greiss said the 64-slice scanner is comparable to those found within hospitals in Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol, and Byers said the new equipment may prevent patients living in Unicoi County from having to travel to Johnson City for scans.
“I would call this state-of-the-art care,” Toshiba Account Executive Tom Peters said. “I mean, it’s right there on the cusp.”
Byers said the scanner was delivered around a week ago, and installation was completed Tuesday. He said the scanner is already operational and UCMH has already begun utilizing it on patients.
“We actually started scanning people today, and it will continue as such,” he said.
In early November, MSHA officially acquired UCMH. With this acquisition, MSHA pledged to make its resources available to UCMH. Byers said UCMH’s receipt of the new scanner would not have been possible without the MSHA acquisition.
“This is the kind of thing Mountain States is able to provide to us,” Byers said. “During the negotiations, this is the kind of things they said they had the ability to do, and the difficulty here was we were lucky to have the machines that we did. So Mountain States definitely helped us to get this machine.”