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A new PET-CT scanner

The centre is making a substantial investment in its PET-CT capability, completely revamping our PET-CT suite and replacing our two existing PET-CT scanners.
Radiographer with a patient

The centre is making a substantial investment in its PET-CT capability, completely revamping our PET-CT suite and replacing our two existing PET-CT scanners.

A new PET-CT scanner

In addition to MRI, the centre is making a substantial investment in its PET-CT capability, completely revamping our PET-CT suite and replacing our two existing PET-CT scanners with a very advanced new machine (Siemens Biograph Vision600) that will eventually be able to scan as many, if not more patients, on any given day as we currently scan with two scanners.

This part of the project is run by Mr Bruno Ferreira, our Superintendent for PET-CT. He said: “It’s very exciting project – you don’t often see such significant upgrades.” Just as with the MRI upgrade, the improvements will translate into more patient comfort and much faster scan times.

Faster scans for patients, with fewer re-scans

PET-CT scans can take between 25 to 30 minutes, but with the new scanner we can complete the process potentially in less than half that time, with the scan itself taking as little as 7 minutes. The new scanner will also provide better scan images, due to a reduction in “motion artefacts” (scan image distortions due to movement by the patient during the scan). Bruno said: “It can be very difficult for someone to remain completely motionless for over 20 minutes. As a result it will be less likely that a patient will have to come back for additional scans, saving them time and exposure to additional radiation.

In addition, it also saves our team time which can then be put into scanning more patients and our radiologists reporting their scans.

‘A game-changer for patients’

“One innovative feature of the new scanner is ‘tailored acquisition modes’, which means it can focus on a particular part of the patient’s body during the scan. Additionally, thanks to artificial intelligence software, the scanner is able to learn the breathing patterns of a particular patient and adapt how it scans accordingly. For example, if the patient has a lesion in the chest that is subject of the scan, the scanner will be able to adjust for the individual up and down movement as the patient breathes, which will make images much clearer for our radiologists who report the scans for the referring clinician, clearly indicating whether a cancer is in the liver or the lung for example. This could be a game-changer for patients.”

Having just one PET-CT scanner instead of two will free up a significant amount of space, which will be used to construct new cannulation and uptake bays, where patients are injected with radiopharmaceutical agent before their scan and wait for it to be dispersed through their body, until they can be scanned in the PET-CT scanner.

The new uptake bays will significantly improve privacy and comfort for our patients and provide improved shielding from radiation to our staff.

The changes are being made with the centre’s recently acquired Posijet (an automatic dispensing and injection device, which can be wheeled from patient to patient) in mind. As a result, there is less need for patients to move around, which can be particularly beneficial for those with mobility problems, and also resulting in a big reduction of radiation dose to the staff Additionally, a new patient waiting area will be created in an annexe on the East side of Paul Strickland Scanner Centre, with views over landscaped gardens, using the innovative modular construction techniques already pioneered elsewhere at Paul Strickland Scanner Centre by Mr Damion Melsome, the centre’s Operations Manager, and which are the envy of others operating on the Mount Vernon site.

Bruno is ambitious about the service and plans to evaluate whether it may be possible for the team to serve even more patients during a given day than currently.

“We could potentially reduce scan times even further in the future, which we will determine with the help of clinical audits.” Bruno and the team will also investigate whether it may also be possible to apply a lower radiation dose to scans, reducing radiation exposure to patients and the staff. “There are no drawbacks for patients, only positives.”

The much-discussed possible move of Mount Vernon Cancer Centre to Watford in the long-term should not create a major problem for Paul Strickland Scanner Centre, as we would move together with the cancer centre (see December 2021 issue of Inside View for more information). If the move happens significantly sooner than 10 years from now, the scanners would be moved to Watford.

If not (which is possible since a decision about a possible move has not yet been made by the Government and Bruno believes the building of a new cancer centre in Watford is likely to only start after the Watford General Hospital rebuild has been completed), both the new PET-CT and MRI scanners would be reaching the end of their lives at that stage. By then, the option to move the existing scanners or change them for new ones, would have to be re-evaluated.

Minimising disruption to patients

“We’re trying to keep the amount of time the project takes to a minimum and have broken it down into phases, minimising any impact on patients. The first phase is due to start at the end of April or beginning of May,” according to Bruno.

The two projects will run at the same time, with the PET-CT project aimed for completion in July, however there may be delays due to Covid-19, if construction workers become ill or need to isolate for example. Difficulties in the sourcing of materials is also something that could delay the project. As with the old MRI scanners, the old PETCT scanner will be sold off to mitigate the cost of the project. “It’s going to be a challenge for the team to run the service at the same time as the building work is going on.”

It is planned to always have at least one PET-CT scanner running at Mount Vernon at any one time, with our satellite site at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage providing additional PET-CT capacity. “This is a huge project but it will be so rewarding when it is done.

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