25 May GE Healthcare launches new medical scanner, places another in hospitals
Milwaukee — GE Healthcare is building up its line of medical imaging systems that give physicians a non-invasive view of the heart and blood vessels.
In Paris on Tuesday, the company showed off a new model of its Innova system for imaging small vessels and the heart while surgeons are placing devices such as stents.
Meanwhile, another GE medical device that the company says is catching on is the LightSpeed VCT, a volume computed tomography scanner, which creates a 3D picture of the inside of a patient’s body.
The scanner, the first of which was installed at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, is able to take 64 “slice” images of the body’s organs in less than 10 seconds.
“In a single rotation, the LightSpeed VCT creates 64 submillimeter images … which are combined to form a three-dimensional view of the patient’s anatomy for the physician to analyze,” said Shannon Troughton, a spokesperson for GE Healthcare. “The LightSpeed VCT is able to capture the image of any organ in one second, perform a whole body trauma scan in fewer than 10 seconds, and capture images of the heart and coronary arteries in as few as five heartbeats.”
Though the LightSpeed VCT is, according to Troughton, “a major new invention with significant clinical and productivity value,” it does not appear to analysts to be a core product yet.
“Most of those things, they don’t even add a penny to GE’s earnings, so I don’t get concerned about them,” said Lawrence Horan of Parker/Hunter. “In order to keep their growth going, they need to have [innovations] in all of their businesses. … They add up across the businesses, but generally you can’t pick it out and say that this certain CT scanner is going to boost GE’s stock.”
Ella Kazerooni, director of thoracic radiology at the University of Michigan Health System, has experience using the VCT scanner. In the six weeks since the health system implemented it, she said, the number of cardiac CT scans increased 18-fold. Doctors have been able to send patients with any sort of vascular CT scan needs, from those who suffer from chest pain to those who have no symptoms but have risk factors for heart disease.
“Basically, the patient lays flat on the table … the table moves through a doughnut-like structure fairly quickly, and in about 2-5 seconds, we can examine their heart,” Kazerooni said. “There is very little patient discomfort.”
“For cardiac CT, which we’ve been working on with a prior generation of CT scanner for a number of years, we didn’t have enough consistency,” she added. “With the new one, we get consistent, high-quality images.”
One function of the LightSpeed VCT is to take high-quality between heart beats in order to diminish irregularities in the images. GE wants that to position it as a replacement for some other ways of diagnosing vessel trauma or blockages.
“Heart motion has historically made CT cardiovascular scans challenging and prone to motion artifacts,” Troughton said. “This capability will potentially make diagnostic evaluation of arterial stenosis faster and less invasive than catheter angiography.”
Or, a single LightSpeed VCT scan of the chest area can allow doctors to “rule out” the three most serious chest-pain related conditions: aortic dissection, pulmonary embolism and coronary artery disease.
All these approaches are meant to decrease the amount of time it takes to find out if there’s a serious condition that needs treatment.
“Once a stroke occurs, it is commonly believed that treatment must be delivered within an hour or less to ensure the best outcome for the patient,” Troughton said.