New CT scanner in Timmins cuts radiation exposure

Jim Andrews, senior registered technologist with Timmins and District Hospital with Toshiba Aquilion ONE ViSION Edition CT scanner.

Jim Andrews, senior registered technologist with Timmins and District Hospital with Toshiba Aquilion ONE ViSION Edition CT scanner.

Shorter wait time draws patients from Sudbury

Timmins and District Hospital’s new computerized tomography (CT) scanner – in operation since March 2016 – offers enhanced diagnostic imaging with a fraction of the radiation patients were exposed in the past.

The Toshiba Aquilion ONE ViSION Edition scanner “is able to produce high-quality images similar to before, but at a fraction of the radiation dose to the patient,” said Jim Andrews, senior registered technologist, Timmins and District Hospital.

“We’re able to do a new type of scanning called volume scanning which allows us to scan an organ in a single rotation of the X-ray tube, as opposed to continual rotations like before.”

A volume scan covers a range of up to 160 mm so that organs such as the brain and the heart can be scanned in a single axial scan.

According to Andrews, Timmins and District’s previous CT scanner exposed patients to 1,000 times more radiation than a simple X-ray. Radiation exposure from the new Aquilion ONE ViSION scanner is not as low as the radiation from a chest X-ray, “but it’s getting to the point where they’re very comparable.”

There are no specific limits to the number of CT scans a patient can safely receive, said Andrews. Clinicians and radiologists ultimately decide on the advisability of serial exams, or if there is another modality – for example, ultrasounds or MRIs – that would be more appropriate.

Exams with the Aquilion ONE ViSION scanner are also faster. A routine head scan takes all of three seconds, while a chest, abdomen or pelvic scan takes 10 seconds.

The wait time for CT scans at Timmins and District, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s online wait time registry is 43 days.

“We’re well ahead of the curve provincially,” said Andrews. “Elsewhere in the province, the wait time for CT scans can be as long as six to eight months.”

Wait times are 109 days at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, 90 days North Bay Regional Health Centre and 72 days at Sault Area Hospital.

The West Parry Sound Health Centre has the shortest wait time for CT scans in Northern Ontario at 16 days.

In the Northwest, patients wait a mere 25 days in Thunder Bay and 22 days at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout.

The shortest wait time in the province is eight days at Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston (near Barrie) and South Grey Bruce Health Centre. The provincial average wait time is 56 days, and the Ministry of Health’s target is half that at 28 days.

Most patients receiving CT scans at Timmins and District are from Timmins and surrounding communities, but “we also get people from other areas,” said Andrews.

“Some people are pretty savvy and look for the least amount of time they have to wait, so we sometimes pull from Sudbury.”

The CT scanner at Timmins and District operates 10 hours a day, five days a week, but is available on weekends and from 4:30 pm to 7:30 am weekdays on an on-call basis.

The hospital’s diagnostic imaging department has a total of 20 technologists able to do some CT scanning, and seven fully trained technologists on all CT scanning modalities.

The City of Timmins contributed $1.5 million for the acquisition of the Aquilion ONE ViSION scanner.

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