London, Dec.21: A scanner that can peer inside a living body to reveal muscles, organs and arteries in unprecedented detail has been unveiled.
Using the '900,000 Somatom Definition scanner, doctors can “remove” a heart, dissect it and hunt for blocked vessels without spilling a drop of blood. They can inspect the outcome of heart surgery without putting a patient at risk, or quickly produce a finely detailed image to help diagnose patients admitted to hospital in an emergency.
The machine is the latest generation of computed tomography (CT) scanner, pioneered in the early 1970s by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, the British Nobel laureate, who died last year.
Developed by Siemens, the new scanner uses two X-ray sources to produce a much-improved image and a huge amount of information about what is going on inside the body.
One of the machines should be operational in Britain by the second half of next year.
A CT scan is a three-dimensional X-ray. As the patient passes through a rotating X-ray beam, detectors capture a series of cross-sectional images, or slices.
X-rays are absorbed differently by tissues of varying density within the body. A computer then compiles the data into a 3D image.
Computing power also allows doctors to erase different tissue types from the final image.
Bones, muscles and organs can be removed, leaving behind veins and arteries, and fatty tissue can be stripped away from healthy muscle.
But there are limits to how fast a single X-ray beam can be rotated ' three revolutions per second is the fastest on offer but that is still too long for a detailed heart scan. So Siemens instead built two scanners in one, allowing the device to image twice as much of the body in the same amount of time.
The dual CT system takes just a twelfth of a second to image the body, faster than a single heartbeat, and yet still allows clear pictures down to 0.4 mm.
Somatom Definition users will, for example, be able to scan patients with heart conditions, such as arrhythmia, that might have ruled them out for cardiac CT scans in the past.