The new CT scanner takes up most of a room in the Imaging Department at Petersburg Medical Center.
“Please breathe in and hold your breath,” a voice from the machine says during a test run. “Start breathing again.”
If you’ve never seen one, a CT scanner looks kind of space age. It has a thin padded bed which slides your body through a donut-shaped machine that takes detailed X-rays.
Sonja Ewing is a Radiologic Technologist at the hospital. She says this scanner is a brand new Siemens 16-slice perspective, manufactured in September and installed in October.
Sixteen slice means it can take about 16 images a second. That’s adequate for nearly all CT scan procedures. Although the former CT scanner was also 16 slice, Ewing says it was outdated.
“We needed a new CT scanner because our old one had a problem with some internal tube stuff and that was either going to be needed to be fixed or we were also kind of up on our contract with the machine and there’s nobody in town that can work on these machines so with our contract it includes people that can fly down whenever we need them to fix this,” Ewing said. “So it made sense to just get a whole new one.”
The maintenance company is out of Anchorage. PMC is leasing the machine for five years at around $5,000 a month which includes the service contract. Otherwise purchasing the scanner would cost $380,000.
Ewing says this new machine uses less radiation that most CT Scanners.
“Every patient on it has kind of their own dose that they’ll get,” Ewing said. “Everybody’s bodies are a little bit different and this machine is able to look at that and kind of configure the best scan for each person.”
CT Scans are needed for a wide variety of illnesses including broken bones, kidney stones, strokes, brain bleeding, and characterizing malignancies.
“Pretty much anything in the body can be looked at with this Cat Scan machine,” she said.
Like other equipment these days–computers and phones– technology is constantly improving. Ewing believes this new CT scanner should give patients more confidence in getting work done locally.
“Nowadays we’re finding that if you do have an exam done here we are able to electronically send your images to the facilities in Seattle or we can send the images on a CD with you,” Ewing said. “And they’re less likely to be duplicated down south because our machinery is a good piece of machinery and they’re getting good studies off of it.”
Ewing says this new machine also helps doctors decide if sending patients on expensive medivacs out of town is necessary.
“It helps rule out if someone does really need to go or if their condition can be managed here in town,” she said.
Renee Hertless, another Radiologic Technologist in the hospital, says she’s noticed a lot of improvements using the machine.
The bed is more comfortable and, “it’s a whole lot quieter than the last machine as well,” she said.
And there’s mood lighting.
“If folks are a little bit tense and anxious,” Hertless said, “or if they have a really bad headache we can dim the lights down and then it is much more comfortable.”
The lighting behind the machine can turn red, then purple, blue, and green, sending a colorful glow through out the room.
PMC’s Imaging Department has also replaced its X-Ray machine and Mammogram machine within the last year.
There is no radiologist on staff in Petersburg so all images get sent to radiologists in Eugene, Oregon.