Patients undergoing diagnostic work at the University of Michigan Health System may now feel safer with the implementation of new state-of-the-art imaging technology that decreases the damaging side effects of radiation exposure.

UMHS is the first teaching hospital in North America to institute Veo, a new clinical technology developed by General Electric that allows CT scans to be performed using a significantly lower dose of radiation than a conventional scan.

Jeff Fessler, a professor of electrical engineering, computer science, radiology and biomedical engineering, contributed to the development of Veo. As CT scans continue to be used on patients more often, Fessler said it’s important to reduce the amount of radiation used in order to prevent harmful side effects on patients.

Fessler said Veo acts as a mini supercomputer that attaches to a CT scanner. By employing more complex mathematical algorithms, it can process the same amount of data as a conventional scanner using less X-ray intensity, therefore allowing the machine to emit lower doses of radiation.

“We’re doing an incredible amount of processing of the data to make an excellent quality image out of data with a lower X-ray dose,” Fessler stated.

Radiology Prof. Ella Kazerooni has used Veo on patients at the University hospital since it was first installed in November, and said it has been greatly successful thus far.

“We’re seeing similar image quality at considerably lower radiation doses,” Kazerooni said. “We really believe what is behind this technology.”

Patients experience no difference between Veo and the conventional scanner when undergoing the scan itself, but Kazerooni said it takes Veo 50 to 60 minutes to process the information and construct an image. The conventional scanner, however, can generate the image almost immediately.

Because it takes longer to produce an image using Veo, Kazerooni said it is only being used in routine outpatient procedures when the patient can afford to wait. For ICU and emergency room patients, Kazerooni said a conventional scanner must be used in order to generate an image quickly.

Kazerooni stressed that the dose of radiation a patient receives depends on many factors, including the body part being examined, the patient’s weight and the clinical question being investigated. For example, body parts like the skull and pelvis are thick bones that require more X-rays, and therefore higher doses of radiation, to penetrate the bone.

She added that children and young adults are at the highest risk from radiation, while the risk is less in adults and minimal in older adults aged 30 to 40.

“Those with the highest risk for any potential downstream cancer tend to be very young,” Kazerooni said. “Our efforts here in our children’s and women’s hospital have been very rigorous in the last seven years to minimize the radiation from the CTs to children in particular.”

Kazerooni said UMHS plans to add Veo computers to all of its CT scanners and has requested these units from General Electric.

Looking forward, Fessler said he plans to continue working on Veo technology to improve its speed in generating images so that it can be used on all patients in the future.

“We’re continuing to work on faster algorithms, and we hope the next generation of this technology will be fast enough that it will only take as long as the scan itself — maybe a minute or two — and then it could be used on every patient for every scan.”

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