FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Sept. 24, 2015) -- The most advanced computerized tomography system in the world -- and the only one in the Army today -- has been in use at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital since Sept. 2.

The more than $1.5 million CT scanning system is so advanced that it is able to produce a 3-D image of the brain in less than 1/3 of a second.

"This has tremendous positive implications for our patients," said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Shahin Nassirkhani, GLWACH's chief of Radiology. "It is like having four of our previous CT scanners in one machine. It can take a 3-D image of the heart in less than one heartbeat."

"Patients with potential heart disease will see enormous benefit," said Col. (Dr.) Peter Nielsen, GLWACH commander.

A patient who presents with chest pain is likely to be scheduled for a complete stress test, a CT angiography and a catheterization procedure, according to Nielsen.

"A cardiac image with our new scanner will replace all three steps," Nielsen said.

According to Nassirkhani, the ability to perform such complete structural and functional studies will not only improve patient care, but also reduce overall health care costs by minimizing the need for multiple tests and invasive procedures, such as cardiac catherizations, while reducing the amount of contrast material needed and the amount of radiation exposure by 65 percent.

"This system allows greater accuracy and diagnostic confidence through reduction of image defects such as motion or stitching artifacts," Nassirkhani said. "With less advanced CT scanners, image defects, referred to as artifacts, limit the evaluation of heart disease, because the heart had to be imaged in separate parts as it went through its beating motion, and then the images had to be stitched together electronically by the computer."

The doctor said the GLWACH radiological staff can obtain an accurate 3-D image of the entire heart in a single rotation of the machine's internal components, which spin at high speed to produce 640 image slices all at once to form the 3-D image.

"This opens the door to safe and accurate imaging, even in patients with irregular heartbeats," Nassirkhani explained.

The CT system also allows almost real-time imaging of organ and blood flow motion -- so called 4-D imaging -- which can be immensely helpful to patients with heart attack or stroke, according to Nassirkhani.

"No other CT system on the planet can do this," Nassirkhani pointed out.

The system can accommodate everyone from infants to large adults who weigh in excess of 650 pounds with its nearly 3-feet wide diameter opening.

"Beyond the hardware, there are numerous software advances, such as Single Energy Metal Artifact Reduction algorithm, which greatly reduces metal streak artifact seen increasingly in patients with prosthetic devices after orthopedic surgery.

"Also, with the system's latest adaptive iterative dose reduction technique, the least amount of radiation dose is delivered to the patient while maximizing image quality.

"GLWACH leads the way in Army Medicine -- again -- this time in terms of advanced radiology CT capability, which fits perfectly well with our goal of providing safe and quality healthcare to Department of Defense and Veterans Administration beneficiaries," Nassirkhani said.

(Editor's note: Brooks is the marketing and public affairs officer at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.)