Image source: Siemens Healthineers
These improvements include an increase in resolution and a reduction in radiation dose by up to 45 percent for ultra-high resolution (UHR) scans compared with conventional CT detectors with a UHR comb filter. This would be impossible with conventional detectors. Photon-counting scans contain more useable data, due to the fact that photon-counting technology directly detects each X-ray photon and its energy level instead of first converting it into visible light as with conventional CT imaging. Siemens Healthineers has launched Naeotom Alpha, the world’s first photon-counting CT scanner. As of today, the system is cleared for clinical use in the USA and Europe.
These aspects combined open up new capabilities, such as scanning a patient’s lung at a high scan speed and getting high-resolution images with inherent spectral information – without the patient having to hold their breath. This spectral information also helps to identify materials inside the body that can even be removed from the image should they obstruct an area of interest. This helps physicians to assess issues quickly and offers the possibility to start treatment early. Through the reduction in radiation dose, regular examinations, such as lung cancer screenings using CT imaging can become routinely available for larger patient populations. And the high resolution reveals even small structures, taking clinical decision-making to a new level of confidence. The technical complexity of photon-counting CT imaging does not mean increased complexity for the user, thanks to myExam Companion from Siemens Healthineers.
“More than 15 years ago, work on photon-counting CT and this clinical vision started at Siemens Healthineers. We always believed in the tremendous clinical value and relentlessly worked on it together with our partners,” says Philipp Fischer, Head of Computed Tomography at Siemens Healthineers. “Today, with the introduction of Naeotom Alpha, we are taking a huge step in furthering patient care in a wide range of clinical domains by effectively showing things impossible to see with conventional CT scans. This required a radical rethinking of practically every technological aspect of computed tomography,” Fischer continues.
Profound impact in many clinical fields
The clinical fields of cardiac imaging, oncology, and pulmonology all have their own unique demands of medical images. In cardiac imaging, it is capturing the heart while moving, which therefore requires speed. Naeotom Alpha delivers speed thanks to its Dual Source design and benefits from spectral information and high resolution for removing obstructions caused by calcifications. This enables diagnostic assessment and allows more patients to benefit from CT imaging – even those with a high calcium burden. The high precision offered by Naeotom Alpha is also highly beneficial in oncology, where reliable and consistent evaluation of disease progress is the most important factor. Therefore, clinical images need to be as conclusive and consistent as possible to make the right decisions. In pulmonology, images need to contain all meaningful answers in as few scans as possible to avoid delays in treatment and potentially severe consequences for patients. These needs are met and often exceeded by Naeotom Alpha’s features. Its clinical images inherently carry more information than ever possible before for precise diagnosis, follow-up, and treatment.
Expanding the leading role of CT imaging in clinical decision-making
The implications of this innovation from Siemens Healthineers are far reaching for patients and physicians and may profoundly change the way that CT imaging is performed: It adds clinical value for fast and reliable diagnoses by the physician by improving image quality, potentially leading to less uncertainty for physicians and patients. The new technology helps in almost every clinical field, but especially when fine structures have to be evaluated.
More than 20 systems have already been installed and are used in clinical routine. So far, over 8000 patients have been scanned. With a rotation speed of 250 milliseconds and two X-ray tubes and detectors (Dual Source), Naeotom Alpha is not only the first photon-counting CT system on the market but is also a very powerful, fast, and precise CT scanner.