Featured Story
07.03.2024

NMC Project Upgrades CT Scanner and Enhances Privacy

By: SARAH PARSONS WEST, for Northwestern Medical Center 

St. Albans – Northwestern Medical Center is upgrading its CT (Cat Scan) equipment this summer, continuing to provide patients efficient imaging services through innovative technology. 

The hospital anticipates the project will start later this summer, with approximately two months of construction. During the upgrade, the Diagnostic Imaging department will use a mobile CT unit to ensure there is no disruption of CT services to patients. The new CT Scanner will replace current CT equipment that was installed in 2011 and upgraded in 2015.  

“With the rapid and ever-changing technology in the imaging field, it’s so important to try and keep up,” says Erica Coburn, RT(R), (CT), (MR), MRSO, BAS.  

As the director of Diagnostic Imaging at NMC, Coburn is responsible for designing and implementing the hospital’s imaging business plan and strategy, procedures, equipment, and policies. 

“We continue to strive to offer the latest innovations to our community to aid in their diagnosis and treatment options,” she says. 

In addition to the equipment installation, the DI department will get a bit of a face-lift, including the expansion of the CT suite, plus the addition of two triage rooms and waiting-room space. 

“We continue to grow and with that comes the need for our patients and their families to have a comfortable place to wait for their examinations while they prep or await the necessary time frame prior to the imaging portion of their study,” Coburn says. 

The project includes a new waiting area, which brings improvements to privacy. 

“We have included two new intake rooms in the project for just that. A new and expanded waiting space adjacent to the intake rooms will also be a part of the project.” 

The intake rooms will be used for other needs in DI, such as IV starts and blood draws, or post-procedure recovery. 

NMC’s DI department performed approximately 11,246 tests in fiscal year 2023, highlighting an increased need for diagnostic imaging in local healthcare. The department recently enhanced its MRI capabilities with an upgrade in 2023. 

“Testing is essential and must be available 24/7/365,” Coburn says. 

The new platform will support routine outpatient work for community members and help accommodate speedy STAT requests from outpatient providers, primary care, emergency and surgical services, she says. 

The cat scan, or computed tomography (CT), is used to create detailed images of internal organs, bones, soft tissue and blood vessels. The cross-sectional images generated during a CT scan can be reformatted in multiple planes and can even generate three-dimensional images which can be viewed on a computer monitor, printed on film or transferred to electronic media. 

According to the American College of Radiology, CT is fast, painless, noninvasive and accurate. In emergency cases, it can reveal internal injuries and bleeding quickly enough to help save lives. 

“The reasons patients would undergo a CT scan can vary, including strokes, forms of trauma, cancer staging, surgery planning and screening purposes,” Coburn says. “We also offer low-dose lung screenings for patients who are at high risk for developing lung cancer because of their smoking history.” 

The new CT equipment will come with improvements in terms of speed, image quality and software capabilities such as dose reduction (possible radiation exposure or absorption) and metal artifact reduction (any interference from, or reflection of metal inside the body). 

Designed for efficiency, the new Canon CT system is capable of fast throughput, patient and technologist safety and offers a platform to expand the department’s imaging portfolio for improved productivity.  As with prior upgrades, Canon will provide in-house training for the DI team of about 8-10 technologists. 

“We will also be introducing the capability of fluoroscopy guided procedures. This implementation is multi-stepped as it requires training for our radiologists, technologists, and other staff. We are working towards advancements in our capabilities to offer higher level of care so our patients can stay here in their community hospital,” Coburn says. 

“This replacement project has been in the works for over a year. A lot of team members were part of this project planning, and many hours were spent evaluating every aspect with our staff and patients in mind,” she says. 

Coburn credits the Cat Scan Technologist team and their continued hard work and dedication to NMC and the community. 

“They work so very hard to ensure we are providing safe and quality studies for our patients. They are one of the reasons we can make such improvements to our organization,” she says. “I want to give my gratitude to that team as they are some of the best team members anyone could ask for.”  

Coburn offered special thanks to Director of Facilities and Support Services, George Gattullo and the facilities team; project manager John Lister; DI supervisor Bridget Thompson; CT Lead Technologist Cynthia Bemis; Dennis Boucher and the Info Systems Team; the Canon business partners; and the entire Cat Scan team for their collaboration, hours of their time and dedication to the project. 

“We are grateful for our ability to move forward with this project thanks to the support from our Senior Leadership team and Board of Directors.” 

As a certified technologist and magnetic resonance safety officer herself, Coburn is certain that the efficiency of these technological advancements will have direct impact on access for patient appointments.  

“The reduction in the time it takes to complete an exam directly correlates with quicker access times for our patients, as exams will take less time for completion. The replacement of the current equipment will also significantly improve the turnaround time for patients to start treatments,” she says. 

“The sooner you can get treatment started, the better recovery those patients will have.”   

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No Disruption in CT Services to Patients: Schedule for Replacement Project 

NMC anticipates the DI upgrade project to start later this summer and take approximately two months to complete.  During the upgrade, the department will utilize a mobile CT unit located behind the building, between the new ED and old West area, accessible via a covered walkway. As staff train on the new CT machine, the mobile until will ensure there is no disruption of CT services to patients. 

  • June: Mobile CT Unit preparations to begin 
  • July: Construction begins 
  • July-August: Patients to use Mobile CT Unit 
  • Early fall: Project completion goal