The Macon County General Hospital is now employing an upgraded CT scanner right at home, allowing patients to get the higher-quality imaging they need without leaving town.
The scanner, which was switched to the electronic PAC (Picture Archiving and Communications) system a few years ago, has just been upgraded from a “6 slice” to a “16 slice” machine.
“In lay terms,” said Hospital Director Dennis Wolford, “the advantage of the 16 versus the 6 is that we’re able to do now what we couldn’t do before.”
Dr. Glenn Nabors, Medical Director of Imaging from Sumner Medical’s Radiology program in Gallatin, leads a Radiology team of nine to Lafayette every weekday morning to work out of MCGH. He explained the upgrades this way: “When we take an image of a person, we slice them like a loaf of bread. They’re on a table, passing through the CT scanner, and you’re taking them one slice at a time. We used to take 6 slices of image per rotation; now we can take 16… 16 is a good standard.”
This means that the quality of the images is much higher, and more can be done with them. “One of the things that we’re checking for a lot when a patient comes in is a blood clot in the lung,” said Nabors. “We have that capability now, to look for that.”
“This means that we can serve the community in a new way,” said Wolford, “they can have things done here that they used to have to drive to another city for.”
The hospital has also acquired a bariatric table for the scanner, which allows them to scan heavier patients. The weight limit was previously 400 lbs., and now it is around 650.
The upgrade to PAC that was completed a few years ago has also been a boon for the hospital operation. “All our images are now electronic,” said Nabors, “rather than having film as we used to have. They can be transferred or picked up anywhere that anybody is authorized to have access.
“One of the advantages is that you don’t lose films, because there’s no film to lose. The data is archived and it’s also backed up, locally as well as here onsite. So you don’t ever lose the data.
“Times past, when we took a film—let’s say we took a chest X-ray for a patient, then their doctor would ask for the film, and it would get lost—of course, no individual doctor is ever at fault,” he grins, “but then another doctor would ask for it, and we wouldn’t have it. And then storage—they take up an enormous amount of space; you have to file them. And I wonder how much hospitals used to spend on postage.”
These changes are just a part of the $1.5 million improvements that the hospital has undergone in the last few years.