Hospital unveils CT scanner

Penticton Regional Hospital is throwing open the doors to the CT scanner room and inviting the public in to have a look at the new unit, which goes into operation next week.

Joan Irving

Joan Irving

Penticton Regional Hospital is throwing open the doors to the CT scanner room and inviting the public in to have a look at the new unit, which goes into operation next week.

It’s a fitting move, since the public donated the $1.7 million needed to pay for the new machine, in one of the largest fundraising campaigns attempted by the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation. That fundraising campaign finished in February 2010, well ahead of expectations, but it has taken a full year to select the most suitable equipment, prepare the space in the hospital and install.

“It is so incredible to see it,” said Janice Perrino of the SOSMF. “It’s been here since the beginning of March. They set it up and they’ve been testing it over the last two weeks, making sure it meets the standards and everything is in the right working order.”

“Communities all over the region have been incredibly generous,” said Walter Despot, chair of the fundraising campaign. “Now it’s time for the patients to finally have access to the newer sophisticated technology.”

Training for hospital staff started earlier this week, with the general public invited to attend a special unveiling ceremony on Friday at 4:45 p.m. with tours of the new CT scanner to follow until 6 p.m.

CT scanning is critical for diagnostic examinations of the head, neck, chest, abdomen and bones, and with staging cancers such as lung, liver, prostate, colon and pancreatic. While the old scanner did overall scans, resulting in a black-and-white image, the new unit takes the images much further. These scans can be viewed several ways, including a three-dimensional view highlighting the area of concern, like the circulatory system or a view inside the colon, highlighting possible polyps in blue.

The old machine is “only 12 years old,” according to Perrino, but digital technology has evolved substantially in that time.

“Ask yourself what kind of a computer you had 12 years ago, and that will give you an idea,” she said. “When you think this is used approximately 11,000 times per year, if we can get 10-12 years out of this next one, that will be great. That’s a good lifespan for a machine used this frequently.”

Perrino points to the scan of a head, showing brain tissue brightly coloured in red and green.

“Some of that is live tissue and some of it is dead. That could be an Alzheimer’s patient, and for the very first time we can see how Alzheimer’s affects the brain,” she said. “We used to do head scans, they’ve taken about five minutes … with the new machine, it will be about 45 seconds.“

The new scanner will go into full operation on March 21, but in case there are any glitches, the old unit will be kept running until the end of the month before technicians from GE take it away. They may end up either selling it to a veterinary clinic, breaking it down for parts, or, as Perrino has heard suggested, sending it to a hospital in a Third World country.