The introduction of solid-state, or digital, technology ushered in a new era in nuclear imaging. These innovations have profoundly changed the way patients receive nuclear imaging and how the studies are performed. In this post, we’re taking a look at the six most significant ways that solid-state technology changed nuclear imaging.
1. Better Image Quality
Solid-state nuclear imaging uses pixilated Cesium Iodide detectors that identify exactly where the gamma-ray photon is emitted from. Before solid-state technology was developed, technologists had to use Anger based cameras that rely on “summed” data. The invention of solid-state also allowed for the use of the entire useable field-of-view, creating a better image
2. Greater Accessibility to Nuclear Imaging
Solid-state gamma camera technology is much smaller and lighter compared to analog cameras. Most solid-state nuclear cameras can fit in an 8’ x 10’ room (a typical exam room) due to their small footprint. These features make it easier (especially in areas like California) and more affordable to add a nuclear camera and, in turn, have made nuclear imaging much more accessible.
3. Enabled the Ability for Upright Imaging
Due to their size and weight, Anger cameras required patients to be imaged in a supine position. By being smaller and more lightweight, digital gamma cameras can image in the preferred, upright position. As we wrote about in a previous post, upright imaging offers the benefit of allowing the technologist to center the heart in the field-of-view without extending the torso, thus keeping the diaphragm or breast tissue lower and reducing the potential for artifacts. As ASNC President Sharmila Dorbala, MD, MASNC, stated in the Harvard Health Letter, “The upright imaging position helps because gravity pulls the stomach and the intestines down a little bit and out of the way of a clear view of the heart.”
4. Lower Cost of Ownership
The advent of solid-state nuclear imaging has resulted in a lower total cost of ownership for nuclear cameras. Imaging on a solid-state camera is faster, and processing takes less time. This advantage results in the ability for greater utilization and the ability to perform more studies per day. Also, the weight and size of Anger cameras required costly modifications to a facility and made relocations a challenge. Solid-state nuclear cameras require no infrastructure improvements and can be installed in as little as a day.
5. Portable Nuclear Imaging
Before solid-state was developed, the concept of portable nuclear imaging was unfathomable. The patient was forced to come to the nuclear department for a study. Today, digital nuclear imaging has unlocked a new world of portable imaging. As we have written about in previous posts, the benefits of portable nuclear imaging are significant. Point-of-care nuclear imaging is safer for patients, improves care, and helps to protect the hospital from costs associated with HAI’s (healthcare-associated infections) and re-admittance.
6. Low Dose Imaging
Solid-state nuclear technology created the ability for low-dose imaging in nuclear medicine. A multi-head camera, combined with nSPEED reconstruction software and Tru-ACQ Count Based Imaging, provides fast acquisition times and dramatically reduces the required amount of radiation. TruACQ Count Based Imaging™ is the first and only count-based SPECT imaging technique that ensures consistent counts for every patient study, regardless of the patient’s size, weight, or the dose used. Simply enter the required counts for the exam or image frame and the software automatically calculates the individualized scan time.
There is no question that solid-state technology has dramatically changed and improved nuclear imaging. As a leading producer of solid-state nuclear cameras, Digirad is proud of the role we have played in developing the technology. With cameras such as the X-ACT+ and Ergo, Digirad continues to innovate and lead as a pioneer in nuclear imaging.