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Hospital to offer super scanner

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital now has access to a super scanner that can detect tumors, heart defects, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The PET/CT Scanner inside a mobile trailer will be in the Grass Valley hospital’s parking lot every Thursday under the sponsorship of the nonprofit Northern California Imaging Center. The scanner Sierra Nevada will share with four Sacramento-Roseville area hospitals can also detect Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and dementias other than Alzheimer’s.

The scanner combines the PET scan that sees cell activity with the CT scan, which shows organs. An overlay of both scans and combined images are read on a computer by physicians, allowing them to more accurately pinpoint problems.



If a physician is looking for a tumor, “I can tell exactly where it is with this equipment,” according to Dr. Elma Abella, the co-medical director of the imaging center.

According to center statistics for lung cancer, the PET scan finds the disease with 87 percent accuracy, while the CT scan finds it correctly 65 percent of the time. Combined, the scanner has a 93 percent accuracy rate.




That shows a physician where to aim treatments for cancers “right down to a certain lymph node,” Dr. Abella said. “It shows you exactly where to go.”

According to imaging center marketing manager Jan Cronin, the scanner is expensive to use but still cost-effective because it leads to more accurate decisions, which can avoid complicated surgeries.

Currently, the scanner is being used about 95 percent for cancer patients “and with the cancer center here, it brings them to a higher level,” Cronin said. The other 5 percent of the time it is used for heart and brain conditions.

“Once Medicare approves it for Alzheimer’s, you’ll see those numbers change,” Cronin said.

Patients using the scanner will be at the trailer about two and one-half hours. A tracer is injected into the body and is given 60 to 90 minutes to circulate. The patient then lies down on a table and is scanned for the next 25 to 35 minutes. Sometimes the patient will be scanned another five to 10 minutes if the physician requests an extra CT contrast scan.

The scanner is high resolution and brings in more detail for physicians to see, Cronin said. Patients and doctors with internet capabilities can also view the images through a secured Web browser.


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