By Kurt Woock

In 1999, GE produced the first hybrid SPECT/CT line, the Hawkeye. Now, nearly 15 years later, they have built a new product on the same philosophy that blends function with cost-effectiveness.

Kevin Boyle, global segment marketing leader at GE, has been with the new product, the Optima NM/CT 640, since its inception. He said that before the Optima launched, “Clinicians had to choose between SPECT/CT products with fast rotation CTs, which required additional shielding and control rooms, or SPECT/CT products with slow rotation CTs and installation planning more consistent with a SPECT-only solution. The Optima NM/CT 640 retains the siting, serviceability, and simple workflow found in slow rotation systems, while adding a fast rotation CT (as fast as 1 second) that delivers great image clarity.” The Optima NM/CT 640 captures SPECT/CT images and, among other improvements, offers new software and hardware tools to help physicians lower radiation dose and decrease the average exam time.

Hybrid nuclear medicine technology makes up the majority of systems sold in Canada, Australia, and Europe, according to Boyle, and is rapidly growing in the United States. The main draw is the quality and versatility. “You’re not paying for a higher powered, higher utilization rate compared to standalone CT,” Boyle said. “Hybrid systems are the best of both worlds: SPECT’s detailed imagery of molecular and cellular activity with the precise anatomical localization of CT.” SPECT produces 3D slices of the patient, which can be analyzed in a variety of perspectives and renderings, providing greater insight to complex, overlapping structures. Planar imaging provides a simple 2D view without the depth perspective of 3D. Performing SPECT exams on the Optima provides clinicians with a variety of tools to help reduce imaging time or injected dose, while maintaining the diagnostic image quality.

The 640’s most notable new feature is its fast rotation time of 1 second, which engineers achieved by decoupling the CT tube from the NM detectors. “With a rotation speed as fast as 1 second, we’re able to help reduce motion artifacts,” Boyle said. Preventing motion artifacts is illustrative of the GE Optima’s efficiency.

Other usability features make the Optima NM/CT 640 an efficient device. “The Hawkeye product was really known for its productivity and ease of use,” Boyle said. “We enhanced those features and brought them to the 640.” The patient bedside has an interactive ruler. The operator is able to define the scan range right at the patient bedside, which can help reduce back-and-forth trips. A standard software feature, called Ignite, immediately sends images to the workstation. While the patient is being helped from the machine, the software begins preprocessing the images using user-defined protocols. On average, Boyle said a procedure that typically took about 55 minutes now takes about 26. The patient is spending far less time on the table.

The Optima also has been shown to help reduce radiation exposure. In one case, a patient was scanned on the Hawkeye product and had a follow-up scan on the Optima NM/CT 640. In the SPECT/CT of the chest and abdomen, the earlier exam had an effective dose of 1.7514 mSv*, whereas the Optima NM/CT 640 exam had an effective dose of 0.7924 mSv* while improving CT image quality (*obtained by ICRP, using an adult chest factor of 0.014*DLP). In clinical practice, dose reduction depends on several factors, such as clinical task, patient size, anatomical location, and clinical practice.

In addition to being versatile in the present, Boyle said the 600 series is designed to allow upgrades, giving users long-term flexibility as needs change. “A department may not require SPECT/CT today, but might want one in the future. Our single head 615 or dual head 630 both are upgradable to the 640 four-slice or the 670 16-slice. Additionally, a person buying a 640 today might have different CT needs in the future—perhaps use the system as an overflow CT unit. They can increase its CT capabilities in the future.”

The Optima 640 was FDA cleared and launched in June 2012. Shipments began in the fourth quarter of last year, and GE is currently working on nearly 50 orders.