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GE's new SPECT scan promises lower radiation doses

GE's new SPECT scan promises lower radiation doses

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The newly FDA-approved imaging system offers 50% lower doses than standard nuclear medicine scanners. The Army uses SPECT scans to look at blood flow in the brains of soldiers with blast injuries.

GE Healthcare’s Discovery NM630 – for quicker, lower dose imaging – has just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

This new system for disease detection and diagnosis is a SPECT scan – or single-photon emission computerized tomography scan. It allows doctors to analyze the function of our insides by visualizing them in 3D (like how blood flows to your heart or what areas of the brain are more active).

In the world of brain scans, SPECT is different from MRI and CT because those are more about structure, like soft tissue and bones. Like PET, SPECT is more about function and change.

Like other nuclear imaging techniques, it employs radioactive substances. But, the new tech offers patient doses as low as 50% that of the standard nuclear medicine scanners – without affecting image quality, GE says.

Other product highlights:

  • can accommodate more patients – large 28” wide bore and table capable of up to 500lbs
  • offers half-time imaging – whole body and bone in 15 minutes.

The Discovery NM630 fits onto existing Xeleris workstations, and it can be upgradeable to the Discovery NM/CT 670 (pictured) by adding CT capabilities.

SPECT technology was in the news a couple weeks ago…

The Army is using the scanning technology to find subtle changes in the brains of soldiers who suffer wartime head injuries, AP reports. For less than a year now, doctors at Fort Campbell in Kentucky have been using the tech to help treat wounded soldiers and study the effects of blast injuries.

The SPECT scans show diminished blood flow and decline in brain function in certain areas, where standard scans showed no obvious signs of damage.

"What's interesting here is that we are seeing things here that we can't see in their standard CT scan," says Maj. Andrew Fong, chief of radiology. "We also can't see it on a traditional MRI."

In the scans, colors correspond to the level of blood flow: white and red are areas of high perfusion and darker areas show low perfusion. More active areas of the brain are naturally ‘hotter’ than other parts and age can slow down blood flow.

"When you are younger, like a lot of our soldiers are, you expect a lot of perfusion – a lot of activity because their brains are fresh," Fong says. In soldiers coming back from war with brain injuries, he saw large areas of decreased perfusion. “And they are in their 20s," he adds.

Interestingly, SPECT scans also illustrate overactive areas of the brain, which are linked to symptoms of PTSD.

Image: GE Healthcare

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure