IWK acquires child-friendly SPECT/CT scanner

GE scannerHALIFAX – The IWK Health Centre has unveiled a new $1.2 million device to help detect cancer and other illnesses in children. The new machine is called the Adventure Series SPECT/CT and is made by General Electric.

It’s designed to capture a combination of images to provide better anatomical detail of patients, which results in a more accurate diagnosis, says Dr. Steve Burrell, a physician of nuclear medicine at the IWK. He says the machine combines two types of scanners into one.

“So at its heart, it’s a nuclear medicine camera which images what we sometimes refer to as function or physiology. And it’s a CT scanner which images structure and anatomy. And sometimes to arrive at the optimal diagnosis, you really have to fuse those two,” Burrell told CBC News.

To make the big machine a little less scary, it has been installed in a room with a jungle theme, bright colours and a playful atmosphere. “It’s a room that’s really built with a child’s eye in mind,” said Sandra MacDonald, a nuclear medicine technologist at the IWK.

She says the room was designed to be interesting to them, but also to relieve their stress and anxiety. As part of the purchase, General Electric will use the room as a showroom to make sales pitches to other hospitals in North America.

Even after spending up to an hour under a nuclear imaging panel, some kids don’t want to leave, says MacDonald. “The kids are more relaxed and that has an effect on their parents. And their parents are more relaxed and that has decreased everyone’s stress level right from the get-go,” she said.

However, no matter how kid-friendly the room is, some kids don’t do so well inside an imaging machine. In those cases, children are sedated. After the child is settled, the machine goes to work. The images captured are able to precisely detect childhood cancers, infections and bone disorders.

The province covered three-quarters of the cost of the machine, and the IWK Foundation covered the rest.

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