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New CT scans can halve radiation exposure

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt on stage at North

GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt on stage at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Lake Success during a press conference today to announce the plan by the hospital system to replace all existing diagnostic imaging equipment with low-dose CT Scanners made by GE. Michael J. Dowling, President and CEO of North Shore LIJ is seen alongside him. (June 21, 2012) Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

A multimillion-dollar upgrade to CT scanners at 10 North Shore-LIJ facilities will cut patients' exposure to harmful radiation while improving image quality, officials with the Long Island health care network said Thursday.

"This is about safety and this is about quality," said Michael Dowling, North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System's president and chief executive, at a news conference in Lake Success announcing the plan. "You can now get treatment in the safest possible way."

The 15 computerized tomography scanners were purchased for $12 million from General Electric, Dowling said, adding the health system is among the first in the country to completely replace its old fleet of CT scanners with the GE machines. GE officials said the new scanners can slash radiation exposure up to one half.

The investment is part of a three-year, $50 million makeover of North Shore-LIJ's imaging equipment, including upgrades to MRI, ultrasound and X-ray machines, according to health system officials.

In the latest piece of that plan, 11 "low-dose" CT scanners will be installed at eight Long Island locations within a year. Four more will be split between Forest Hills Hospital in Queens and Staten Island University Hospital.

Software in North Shore-LIJ's new CT scanners allows physicians to reduce radiation while producing a clearer, high-definition image, GE officials said.

The corporation partnered with North Shore-LIJ to install and monitor the new scanners, chief executive Jeff Immelt said at the news conference. With feedback from such health care providers, he added, GE expects to develop technology to halve radiation exposure again within three years.

"This collaboration that you see here can be a model all over the world," Immelt said.

North Shore-LIJ's move isn't without precedent. The University of Alabama at Birmingham installed a similar CT scanner in its Kirklin Clinic in 2009.

"This is the first key breakthrough in radiation dose [reduction]," said Dr. Lincoln Berland, the university's CT chief.

Despite the new technology, any radiation-imaging equipment still poses significant risk to repeated, high-dose users such as cancer patients, Berland said.

The Joint Commission, a nonprofit group that gives accreditation to health care providers, warned of long-term risks of diagnostic radiation in a 2011 report.

Nevertheless, braving such danger is necessary, said Dr. John Pellerito, North Shore-LIJ's chief of ultrasound, CT and MRI.

"Benefits of early detection of cancer far outweigh the risks of diagnostic imaging," he said.

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