GE CT Scanning App Cuts Radiation Exposure by 50 Percent

General Electric's ASIR software technology allows for reduced radiation in virtual colonography scans while maintaining accurate results, according to a study. Siemens and Philips are also working on similar radiation-reducing applications.

You may be able to dread cardiovascular tests a little less.

A software-based medical technique from General Electric called Adaptive Statistical Iterative Reconstruction, or ASIR, has led to a lower amount of radiation in computed tomography (CT) colonography tests while maintaining accurate results, according to an article appearing in the American Journal of Roentgenology, published by the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS), a radiology industry association.

"This new technique allows us to use far less radiation than even a typical abdominal CT scan without compromising image quality," Dr. C. Daniel Johnson of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a statement. His study appears in the journal article, and the researchers announced the results on June 21.

"The fact that we can now screen patients with an increasingly lower dose can allay concerns, attract more patients to be screened and ultimately save tens of thousands of lives each year," Johnson said. "The results of this pilot study show that the radiation dose during CTC can be reduced 50 percent below currently accepted low-dose techniques without significantly affecting image quality when ASIR is used."

GE presented the results of the study in May at the International Society for Computed Tomography conference in San Francisco. The company's Discover CT750 scanner runs the ASIR program. ASIR reduces the amount of "noise" in an image while improving the image's quality, according to an ARRS release.

This development may ease concerns that CT scans cause cancer. "One of the reasons people say not to get a virtual colonoscopy is because of radiation dose," Dr. Amy Hara told Reuters. "This is a method you could use to minimize that concern."

Siemens AG and Philips are also working on new applications for CT scans. The Mayo Clinic maintained image quality during CT colonography while lowering the radiation dose with GE's ASIR software, which was first released in 2008.

At the Mayo Clinic, the study's 18 subjects received varying doses of 50 milliampere seconds (mAs) to 25 mAs, and six different ASIR levels were used. "In patients, no significant image quality differences were identified between standard- and low-dose images using ASIR," said Johnson. The phantom study showed image noise reduction that correlated with a higher percentage of ASIR. The CT scans are used to detect cardiovascular disease, according to GE.

GE is a major player in the health care IT field. The company's "healthymagination" effort aims to reduce health care costs through timely care. On June 15, the company introduced its latest Centricity software as a service that allows physicians to maintain electronic records and run their practice electronically.

In the Mayo study, researchers found no major differences in image quality between standard and low dose at a 40 percent ASIR level.

According to GE, doses in CT scans during cardiac procedures can reach 83 percent. Therefore being able to reduce the dosage and maintain valid results is crucial. Children are also sensitive to high radiation.

A June 23 article by the New England Journal of Medicine discusses the debate on CT scan safety. The risk of cancer from a single CT scan could be as high as 1 in 80 - "unacceptablyhigh, given the capacity to reduce these doses," NEJM wrote.

In addition to medical scans, radiation is also a concern for smartphone users. On June 22, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to approve a law requiring cell phone retailers to display - in 11-point type or larger - the amount of radiation emitted by each phone they sell.

The vote drew a quick response from the mobile phone industry. The CTIA (Cellular Telephone Industries Association) has decided that it will stop holding its annual conference in the city after this fall's event. CTIA has held five of the past seven annual conferences in San Francisco.