MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Medical Educator Speakers Bureau Seminars and Events Research Studies Research Grants Catalyst PDF File Community Happenings Campus News

Return to Main Menu

CT scanner accommodates obese patients

by Mary Helen Yarborough
Public Relations
A new computed tomographic (CT) scanning device will vastly improve treatment of patients who are morbidly obese who had to travel to other facilities to get needed scanning. The new  specialized scanners are large enough to support the extra weight and size.
The Siemens Definition AS CT will be one of only two in the country (Mayo Clinic has the other one) that comes with a payload of 660 pounds, which is sturdy enough to support the majority of the morbidly obese. Previously available CT scanners could only support a person who weighed up to 450 pounds.
The CT also has a larger girth than current CT scanners. The wide opening also is helpful for use on patients with claustrophobia, said MUSC radiologist U. Joseph Schoepf, M.D., who urged Siemens to develop the technology.
“We had gotten a lot of requests for scanning on patients who are morbidly obese,” Schoepf said. “Unfortunately, the only way to get scans of a lot of these patients is to send them away to North Carolina or Georgia veterinary facilities to use their large animal scanners.”
Schoepf said that not only was this demeaning, but it discouraged a significant segment of society from seeking help. The alternative was for doctors to perform exploratory procedures on these patients, who generally are vulnerable to a host of physical illnesses and complications.
“Now, having this new CT scanner increases our abilities so that we can care for these people,” Schoepf said.
While the new CT scanner has stronger generators that have sufficient power to penetrate large patients in order to provide high quality imaging studies, it also utilizes new features using so-called adaptive scanner technology, which actually reduces the radiation dose by cutting redundant radiation scanning. This provides a type of dose shield.
“We are able to focus the radiation on specific areas that we are seeking to scan,” Schoepf said. “We're able to direct the radiation where we want and need it; and it turns off over areas where we do not want it.”

For big and small people
While the CT scanner would be immediately useful for digestive disease treatment, it also is useful for women and younger individuals seeking low-radiation heart scans.
Schoepf said that because the scanner can be programmed to turn up, down, dim and react as it adapts to the cardiac sequence, it is indicated for use in women and younger individuals where radiation exposure is of greater concern.
“Radiation exposure from heart CT scans is more significant in women, since the sensitive breast tissue is always in the scan field,” Schoepf said. “We use CT in a fair number of younger, fairly healthy women to rule out false positive nuclear studies, and the new scanner allows us to do that with a fraction of the radiation.”
The scanner, which produces 128 slices of detailed cardiac information, uses up to 80 percent less radiation than conventional CT scanners. It also is more robust with irregular heart rates than previous scanners, Schoepf said. The scanner can read hearts with irregular rhythms and arrhythmia and adjust the scan sequence to the changing heart rate on the fly.
MUSC radiologists use CT devices to assist in a variety of procedures. Among the uses of the new CT device, a body perfusion setting enables the table to shuttle the patient back and forth to measure blood flow through various organs, such as the brain in stroke patients. Based on this feature, the new scanner can also provide real-time intervention and guidance for biopsies, Schoepf said.

Friday, April 18, 2008
Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.