A CT scan is one of the most useful tools in modern medicine, allowing doctors to detect everything from complex bone fractures to tumors. An abdominal CT scan is a valuable procedure used to figure out why a patient may be suffering from abdominal pain. The procedure was first performed in 1971 and is now one of the most common in healthcare, with over 80 million each year.
In over 50 years, this technology has advanced to become more accurate, helping doctors diagnose cancer and other diseases more quickly and accurately. The following technological developments have allowed medical professionals to improve patient care.
Lowered Exposure to Radiation
When getting a CT scan, patients are exposed to radiation at significantly higher levels than a standard x-ray. However, over the past decade, scientists and engineers have created machines that offer superior imaging with lower doses of radiation. A study in 2013 showed that newer CT scanning technology reduces exposure by up to 95%, making the procedure less risky than older CT scans.
As recently as the early 2000s, patients getting an abdominal CT scan could expect to spend 30 minutes or more having the procedure. Current CT scanning machines reduce this time while allowing doctors to collect more images. Some models offer up to 640 slices in a fraction of the time.
With these devices, patients can spend less time getting a CT scan and more time asking their doctor questions or getting additional tests. Diagnosis is faster and often more accurate. These machines’ enhanced speed also helps shave time off of diagnostic testing in critical patients. Instead of spending 30 minutes running a CT scan, doctors can run multiple tests and start treating the patient faster.
Now only to current generation CT scanners offer more slices, they also offer better image quality. A doctor can use multiple images to create a 3-D image of their patient’s abdominal cavity, heart, or brain on a computer screen. With these tools, they can see smaller tumors, detecting cancer earlier and offering their patients a better prognosis.
If a patient comes into an emergency department following a bad accident or fall, new CT scanning technology helps them see internal injuries they may have missed.
In 2021, CT technology became even better with the FDA clearing the way to use photon counting detectors. Unlike traditional CT scanning, photon counting detectors measure individual x-rays as they enter a patient’s body. These machines offer detailed information that is harder to obtain using traditional machines.
Doctors and other medical professionals get more precise data with enhanced detail and less information that’s not useful. These new machines also generate detailed 3-D images onto a computer, giving trained physicians a virtual glimpse at their patient’s organs.
The Ability to Go Mobile
Older CT scanners are difficult to transfer because of intubation tubes, intravenous lines, and other monitoring equipment. Newer models are portable, allowing healthcare workers to move them from patient to patient instead of having to wait until the CT scanning facilities are available.
For patients with head injuries or other conditions that make it dangerous to move them, these portable units help reduce risk while letting their caregivers make an accurate diagnosis. Some agencies have also experimented with CT scanners on ambulances, creating mobile stroke units and allowing their EMTs to offer more comprehensive care before they reach the hospital.
In situations where time is of the essence, a mobile CT scanner could drastically alter a patient’s prognosis.
Rounding Out Capabilities with Artificial Intelligence
Newer CT scan processing software uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to reconstruct the slices. Traditional processing software often leads to noise, or graininess and blurriness that makes reading the scans more difficult.
AI-based programs filter out this noise, producing higher-quality images that are easier for a radiologist to read and interpret. These programs filter images faster than traditional software, creating high-quality images and helping radiologists improve their productivity.
With these programs, radiologists and doctors are likely to see fewer inconclusive scans. For patients, this means they don’t have to undergo another scan to rule out noise on the image. They get diagnosed more quickly and they don’t have to be exposed to more radiation.
Moving the Industry Forward
These new advancements in CT scanning are greatly improving medical care. Doctors, radiologists, and other members of healthcare teams can diagnose patients quickly and accurately, letting them develop treatment plans at earlier stages of disease.
Patients also benefit from lower radiation exposure and better diagnostics. As the industry moves on, scanning technology will keep getting better and patients will reap the rewards.