GE says CT scan has clearer images, cuts radiation

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A new high-definition CT scanner from GE Healthcare is producing clearer images of the body’s internal organs, bones and soft tissue while reducing potentially cancer-causing radiation exposure compared with older machines, the company said on Monday.

GE Healthcare, a $17 billion unit of General Electric Co, said its new high-definition CT scanner is under U.S. regulatory review and it hopes to launch the product sometime in 2008.

GE Healthcare is showcasing the new technology at the annual meeting of Radiological Society of North America here this week.

Computed tomography, known as CT, uses X-rays to produce pictures that allow doctors to look inside a patient for early warnings of cancer, heart disease and other problems. Historically, higher-quality CT images have only been achieved by using more radiation.

The improved quality of the images using high-definition CT scanners is analogous to the improved clarity of high-definition video, according to the company.

The new technology is capable of producing images that are 30 percent clearer, generated 100 times faster using half the radiation dose of today’s technology, said GE Healthcare spokesman Corey Miller.

Cardiac scans are able to achieve an even greater dose reduction of up to 83 percent, he said.

One of the most commonly performed tests is the CT coronary angiography used to detect coronary heart disease, which accounts for one in five deaths in the United States. But a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded there was a higher lifetime risk of cancer associated with the scan, particularly for women in their 20s.

GE Healthcare, which competes most closely with Siemens AG, Toshiba Corp and Philips Electronics Group in the market for scanners, said its next-generation CT scanners use different detector materials.

The primary material used is the garnet gem -- which also is used in the surgical equipment for Lasik eye procedures -- and represents the first time in 20 years that the detector material has been reformulated, the company said.

Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, can obtain high-quality images by using a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce pictures. But MRIs are costlier and more time-consuming to perform and are better at capturing images of soft tissue rather than organs, Miller said.

GE Healthcare also manufactures magnetic resonance machines, as well as other imaging equipment, information technology systems, and technology used for drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing and cellular technologies.

Reporting by Debra Sherman, editing by Gerald E. McCormick