ALARA stands for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” It’s an acronym radiology professionals use to refer to a careful balancing act — taking the highest-quality diagnostic images with the least amount of radiation exposure. A new low-dose CT scanner at UF Health Shands Hospital creates optimal imaging with minimal radiation dosage to patients.
There are four low-dose CT scanners at UF Health facilities in Gainesville: two at UF Health Shands Hospital, one at UF Health Springhill and one at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital. The advanced technology creates images with fewer, more powerful X-rays, allowing patients to receive lower doses of radiation. The image is also completed in less time.
“UF Health was one of the first health systems in the country to implement this technology in the past two years,” said Manuel Arreola, Ph.D., chief of medical physics and an assistant professor of radiology in the College of Medicine. “We’re distinct because we have the expertise to take this technology and apply it to clinical use, which has an immediate and beneficial impact on our patients.”
A CT scan takes detailed pictures of the body, including the brain, chest, spine and abdomen. The test is used to diagnose an infection, guide a surgeon to the right area during a biopsy, identify masses and tumors and study blood vessels.
Generally, higher radiation results in better imaging, while too little radiation means a loss of detail, contrast and overall image quality.
Every CT ordered at UF Health is studied by a radiologist and tailored according to the patient’s medical history, weight, age and the portion of tissue being scanned. The objective of UF Health medical physicists and radiologists is to mitigate the risks while also obtaining an image that will answer the clinical question facing the patient.
This is especially important when administering CT scans for pediatric patients.
“Children are more susceptible because their tissues are more vulnerable and sensitive to radiation,” said Dhanashree Rajderkar, M.D., an assistant professor of radiology in the College of Medicine. “They also have more time for negative side effects to set in.”
The newest machine, which was installed in March, also has helped the team efficiently manage high patient volumes. Several patient populations can now benefit from low-dose CT scans, including pediatric patients, patients undergoing cardiac or stroke care, and pregnant patients. The additional scanner has reduced wait times and delays.
“Because of the use of the technology and the work of quality scientists, we guarantee better and faster care, a better life and peace of mind for our patients at UF Health,” Arreola said. “For us, that’s our reward.”