Three-month-old Jase Poppke quietly looked around inside the large doughnut-shaped computed tomography (CT) scanner, his tiny fingers wrapped around the thumb of Suzanne Loew, lead CT technologist at Norton Children’s Hospital. Seconds later, on the other side of a glass window, Jase’s tiny heart appeared as an image on a computer screen. With the click-and-drag of a mouse, the image grew larger and incredibly detailed.
The scanner uses a rapidly spinning X-ray tube inside the circular housing that takes images of the body as it moves through the opening, or “doughnut hole.” CT scans are a common diagnostic imaging tool used to examine everything from the head, heart and abdomen to the spine, pelvis and even major blood vessels.
“CT imaging helps us make important diagnoses and provide important information to the physicians taking care of our pediatric patients,” said Philip Dydynski, M.D., pediatric radiologist. Dr. Dydynski is the new chief of pediatric radiology for Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro. He leads Norton Healthcare’s team of 11 pediatric radiologists.
Jase’s CT scan was performed using a new piece of equipment called the Siemens 256-slice SOMATOM Definition Flash CT scanner. It is the latest in a series of advancements aimed at reducing radiation exposure to the hospital’s smallest patients. Norton Children’s Hospital was the second free- standing children’s hospital in the United States to install this state-of-the-art technology.
The new scanner detects the size of the patient and adjusts the radiation level of the X-ray beams accordingly, making diagnostic imaging tests even safer for children. Because these scans are sensitive to movement, children often need to be sedated to remain still during the test. However, the new scanner’s high speed allows for shorter tests, so children may not need sedation. Many tests can be completed in just a few seconds.
“The end result is a radiation dose significantly less than CT machines from even a decade ago,” Dr. Dydynski said. “The new CT is fast enough to scan the entire chest in between heartbeats with great accuracy. This results in a decreased need for sedation, even in infants such as Jase.”
Because Jase did not need sedation, he was back in his mother’s arms in less than 15 minutes. Pediatric cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons will review his images to determine what type of surgery he will need to correct a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot.
“The more detailed images have made it easier to diagnose congenital heart disease among other serious conditions,” Dr. Dydynski said.
The scanner at Norton Children’s Hospital is housed in a room designed specifically with children in mind. It is decorated with a soothing color scheme and has an overhead “window” that looks out onto a serene outer space scene. These help distract young children and ease their anxiety.
Reducing radiation exposure is a top priority for Norton Healthcare. The new CT scanner and room design are part of several upgrades at Norton Healthcare facilities that total more than $5 million to date. The X-ray room in the emergency department at Norton Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro was updated with a digital X-ray that acquires and transfers images in less time, reducing radiation exposure.
“This allows for faster turnaround and less wait time in the emergency room,” Dr. Dydynski said.
Other improvements slated for Norton Children’s Hospital include upgrading a second digital fluoroscopy room and adding additional portable digital X-ray units.
“The portable digital unit has been extremely well-received, especially by the emergency department physicians and pediatric surgeons,” Dr. Dydynski said. “It is a tremendous benefit, especially in the trauma setting, as physicians caring for the patient are able to see the X-rays instantly.”