Pioneers Memorial Healthcare Announces New and Innovative CT Scans

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(L-R) Radiology Clinic Coordinator Joel Birdsong, M.D., Radiologist Dr. Curtis Cammarata, Radiology Manager Bobby Lira, and Chief CT Tech Derek Tapia talked about the benefits of the hospital’s upgraded Toshiba ENCORE VeloCT.

BRAWLEY – An upgrade can go a long way in improving patient care especially when it comes to the radiation dosage received during X-ray computed tomography (CT) imaging, according to physicians and techs at Pioneers Memorial Health Care District (PMHD.)

That concern is why the Pioneers hospital and medical center, an affiliate of the Scripps Health Network, announced a recent CT upgrade in May. The system is called a Toshiba ENCORE VeloCT.

Reportedly, CT images can provide an enormous amount of information in a short amount of time that traditional radiographs (X-rays) simply cannot duplicate. However, while patients can be scanned rapidly with more detail in a CT image, the radiation dose to patients that come with these scans is substantially more than traditional radiographs, according to physicians. This has created a dilemma for imaging technologists and physicians attempting to adhere to the principle of ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable).

Frank Salazar, PMHD director of marketing, said with the new software, Pioneers Healthcare District has the most advanced imaging system in the Valley keeping the facility at par with new technology.

“This is innovation for Imperial County,” said Salazar.

Pioneer Memorial Healthcare District COO Steve Campbell said CT imaging has become the main diagnostic study that emergency room physicians are looking for as well as many regular care physicians.

“It’s the same machine, but it’s enhanced through software significantly grading it an ‘A’ machine,” said Campbell. “This allows us to go longer without having to take a second CT which obviously is a lot of expense to the organization for that.”

According to Radiology Clinic Coordinator Joel Birdsong, the Toshiba ENCORE VeloCT’s technology improves the CT scan’s image quality with 40 percent less radiation than the previous version (Toshiba AQUILION 64 CT System), and patients can be scanned faster with much more detail while increasing the radiology department’s workflow.

“CT scans are a lot more popular now than before and they are being used by doctors now quite often,” said Birdsong. “When we take a CT scan the picture appears very grainy, but once the software (ENCORE VeloCT’s) clears it up you get a perfect diagnostic image at 40 percent less radiation and because the processing time is faster, (and) this also increases our workflow.”

Birdsong said there is no exact number of CT images a person should have during their lifetime, however, he did say it was safe to say once every six months would be within normal range.

Dr. Curtis Cammarata, M.D., a radiologist, stressed the numerous benefits patients will obtain with the new technology.

“There is definitely faster output, less waiting time for patients and less of a radiation dose,” said Dr. Cammarata. “These benefits are clearly all centered around the patient.”

Another important feature is the improvement of the Dose Check software. This software shows the radiation dose the patient will receive before the scan, and will alert the technologist if the dose of the scan is more than necessary. This allows the technologist to make any adjustment to lower at the dose and adhere to the principles of ALARA.

PMHD Chief Executive Officer Larry Lewis said providing the necessary tools for caregivers and physicians and identifying the needs are enhancements Pioneers Memorial is currently undergoing.

“There are a lot of opportunities out there with the shortages of physicians, so we’ve been trying to bring more great physicians in here and have overall plans that are just being conceived of and a few that are rolled out already,” said Lewis. “It’s really centered around how do we provide tools for our caregivers and where those needs are at this time.”

Lewis also said the recent merger with Scripps Health Network has played a key role in the PMH enhancements.

“Scripps has helped us move forward and have been a very good resource with all of their experience,” said Lewis. “They have certainly helped us continue to improve our quality.  I recently learned that we (PMH) are scored very highly when it comes to our peers here in the Valley and San Diego with our clinical processes that are reported nationally.”

Lewis added that PMHD will bring in other new technology within the year.