Mercy CT software promises less risk

National studies show radiation overexposure in some cases

In order to lower radiation exposure to patients, Mercy Regional Medical Center next month will install new software ina diagnostic tool that provides a three-dimensional view of organs, bones and blood vessels.

The enhancement of the Mercy CT (computed tomography) scanner coincides with the release of two studies that foundoveruse, multiple settings for a certain procedure, or multiple operating standards expose patients to levels ofradiation that ultimately will lead to cancer.

A CT scanner utilizes a series of X-rays to provide highly detailed, three-dimensional pictures of the anatomy. TheMercy scanner captures 64 “slices" of its target in a single rotation of the X-ray beam around the patient. The slicesare converted into a three-dimensional image.

The recent studies were done by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and the National CancerInstitute in Bethesda, Md. In a Dec. 15 story, the Los Angeles Times, citing the Archives of Internal Medicine,reported that among the alarming findings:b The same procedure at different hospitals or on different scanners in the same hospital can produce 13 times theradiation.

b While a normal CT chest scan produces the same radiation as 100 chest X-rays, some scanners produced the equivalentof 440 normal X-rays.

b The number of CT scans in the United States increased from 3 million in 1980 to more than 70 million in 2007.

The new software in the Mercy CT scanner will reduce the dose of radiation to a patient by 30 to 50 percent, Dr. JonDelacey, a radiologist at Mercy, said Friday.

“The CT scanner is an amazing tool because it gives us a ton of information," Delacey said. “There is certain risk toradiation, but we always tailor the dose to the patient."

The amount of radiation needed for a given procedure varies according to the size of the patient, Delacey said. The newsoftware will reduce the dose of radiation proportionately.

Dennis Soappman, director of diagnostic imaging at Mercy, said the new software will improve the quality of diagnosticservices.

“With the addition of this technology we can capture high-quality images with dramatically lower radiation doses topatients," Soappman said. “This is especially beneficial for children and young adults who are more susceptible to harmfrom excessive radiation exposure."

Radiation is an issue and all CT scanners aren't the same, Soappman said. Patients should feel free to askquestions.

The cost of the software, around $350,000, was partially funded by an anonymous donor.

“The CT scanner is an amazing tool because it gives us a ton of information. There is certain risk to radiation, but we always tailor the dose to the patient.”

—Dr. Jon Delacey, radiologist at Mercy