Heart Vision

Our CT scanner on TV1

Checking for heart disease is one of the fastest growing areas in medicine. Now a private hospital in Christchurch has New Zealand's first dual CT scanner - a $2 million machine that can pick up even the tiniest defects.

The dual source definition CT provides a window into the beating heart like never before.

"We're able to see not only the inside of the coronary artery but also the outside," says Christchurch Radiology Group spokesperson Dr Ross Keenan.

Scanning the beating, constantly moving heart is a challenge for doctors, but the dual scanner solves this by using two X-ray cameras instead of the usual one, taking a mere 82 milliseconds to perform an entire rotation and freeze frame of the heart.

"We can see all the side branches (of the heart) and even branches down to less than a millimetre," says Keenan.

Until now, angiograms have been the gold standard in heart scans. Angiograms involve snaking a catheter inside a blood vessel in the groin and up to the heart - a process which carries a small risk of serious complications.

But with CT scanning it is as simple as the patent walking in and lying on the table. It is non-invasive, painless, and patients can be in and out in seven minutes.

 

The scan is currently only available for private patients, and it is not cheap, costing around $1,600 per scan.

However, Ross says it can save time and money in the long run.

"They've seen that this produces quite large cost savings in going straight to an answer for the cause of chest pain".