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What it is: Computed tomography (CT), often called "CAT" scan, is a system that uses special x-ray equipment to obtain image data and then uses computer processing to show a cross-section of body tissues and organs. 

Why it is used: Because CT is capable of providing detailed, cross-sectional views of all types of tissue, it is an invaluable tool in studying the chest and abdomen, and is often the preferred method for diagnosing many different cancers. CT examinations are also used to plan and administer radiation treatments for tumors and as a tool to guide physicians performing biopsies or minimally invasive procedures.

Stony Brook’s imaging program remains on the forefront of CT technology, using the fastest scanners on the market for even the most routine tests. In fact, Stony Brook was the second hospital in the country to install a state-of-the-art 320 CT scanner in the Emergency Department (ED) to diagnose chest pain. The scanner can definitively tell if a patient has had a heart attack, which allows physicians to either treat it immediately and appropriately or send the patient home with the peace of mind knowing that it was NOT a heart attack. In addition, the CT scan can reveal other conditions such as blockages or the presence of soft plaque that hasn’t yet hardened — giving patients information about the early signs of disease that they can then work to control. 

A recent groundbreaking study by Stony Brook’s Director of Advanced Cardiovascular Imaging revealed that the use of this technology in the Emergency Department led to fewer hospital admissions and shorter ED stays. This provides an alternative means for improving the triage of patients who have chest pain.

How does it work? This safer, faster and more accurate scanner can capture images in less than one second – in essence, in a single heartbeat – versus the 20 to 30 seconds of a traditional scanner. This allows much lower doses to be used. Another benefit: Because it is easier for patients to remain immobile for just one second, images are more accurate and there is less need for repeat scans (which only expose patients to more radiation).

For general imaging, including routine tests, Stony Brook is equipped with the GE Lightspeed VCT 64-slice scanner, the latest innovation in CT technology. This state-of-the-art scanner delivers images with increased accuracy and at a faster rate than any other CT scanner available. It also provides three-dimensional (3-D) views, including 3-D images of blood vessels.