Simplifying Even Complex CT Procedures with Intelligent Imaging

Manuel Meyer


Precision, quality, and speed have made the radiology unit of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra, Spain a national benchmark. In its quest of professional excellence, the hospital decided to go one step further. That advance has now been accomplished with new, personalized scan procedures.

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Photos by: Markel Redondo

Personalized cancer treatment brings people from other continents to Clínica Universidad de Navarra.
Radiology nurse Begoña Sara finds that especially corpulent or less mobile patients can be positioned more easily thanks to the bigger gantry opening.

Francisco Cubo was desperate: Two years ago, the 52-year-old Spaniard was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney and malignant lung nodules. “The doctors in Madrid didn’t give me much hope,” he remembers.

The real estate broker from the Madrid suburb of Majadahonda took matters into his own hand and sought out the best possible treatment and medical care. Soon, he found the Clínica Universidad de Navarra. This clinic in Pamplona, in northern Spain, is among the country’s most prestigious hospitals and a referral hospital for the treatment of cancer and heart diseases.

Within a week, he underwent surgery. The kidney cancer was successfully dealt with. But recently, new metastases have formed in his lungs, which are now being treated and checked regularly. The journey from Madrid is a long one, but for Francisco Cubo, it’s worth the effort. “I know that here, I will be treated by the country’s top specialists with the latest technology,” he says in the waiting room of the radiological unit.

At 10:30 a.m., the computed tomography (CT) scan is performed. And by 11:20, Francisco has already received the good news: The metastases have not spread any further. The treatment in the test phase seems to be effective. “In a regular hospital, I would have waited a week for the result. That’s an eternity when you’re in fear of your life. Here, I get the result within 50 minutes. That’s priceless,” says Francisco.

Collaboration between clinical departments is key to best patient care.
Thanks to the intelligent support from myExam Companion, less experienced personnel can also carry out even the most complex scans quickly and accurately.

Such rapid diagnostics, however, require more than just quick CT scan procedures and excellent coordination between radiology and the treating physicians, as Gorka Bastarrika, MD, Head of Radiology, points out. “Our findings must also meet the highest possible standards of quality and precision if the doctor in charge needs them within hours in order to decide on the further treatment ahead of her consultation with the patient.”

Professional excellence combined with short waiting times and fast, personalized treatment are the hallmarks of this internationally renowned university clinic. This is why patients from all over Spain and even from other European countries and Africa come to Pamplona. They are also the three reasons why banker António Assis de Almeida travels all the way from Angola to Clínica Universidad de Navarra once a year for a checkup. The clinic has many such screening patients who come for preventive examinations. However, the radiology department is also in high demand among those seeking second opinions in cases of uncertain diagnoses. The clinic collaborates with external physicians around the globe. Results are sent out within 24 hours to anywhere in the world.

Since cardiac CT scans are becoming more frequent, intelligent CT scans are crucial for standardizing CT settings.
For Gorka Bastarrika, MD, Head of Radiology, Clínica Universidad de Navarra, the new scanner marks a new era in computed tomography.

“In order to be able to work both rapidly and with high precision, we need not just first-class personnel, but also above all the latest scanning technology. That also helps us with our pioneering work in further developing the latest treatment and scanning methods,” explains Bastarrika. And that’s exactly what the patients want. Thus, the clinic is always equipped with the latest scanner technology. Since August 2019, Bastarrika’s radiology team has been using the new SOMATOM X.cite from Siemens Healthineers, which has undergone worldwide tests in five and will soon be available on the market.

“Thanks to the intelligent support from the new myExam Companion, less experienced personnel can also carry out even the most complex scans quickly and accurately, thanks to the automated capture of imaging and reconstruction settings,” says the radiology chief. He notes that especially with cardiology patients suffering from arrhythmias, arteriosclerosis, or high heart rates, it is now much easier to standardize settings through intelligent decision trees.

This is a crucial factor for his unit, since cardiac CT scans are becoming more and more frequent. “We live longer, we exercise less, and our diets are getting progressively worse. As a result, heart diseases are on the rise. At the same time, more and more physicians rely on radiological cardiac diagnostics, which has seen massive improvement over the past few years,” explains cardiologist Juan José Gavira, MD. Accordingly, the demand for cardiac CT imaging is rising, too.

But what are the concrete advantages of the new CT scanner for the patient? “The examination is faster and more comfortable, and the new system generates a quicker reconstruction, which means that the patients get their results sooner,” says Bastarrika. He also points out that the scanner’s automated voice commands for patients are available in many languages, which is ideal for the Clínica Universidad de Navarra and its many international patients.

Another example is the bigger gantry opening: Larger and less mobile patients or those attached to medical devices in particular can be positioned more easily, says radiology nurse Begoña Sara. “It’s much more comfortable. You no longer feel like you’re imprisoned,” agrees cancer patient Francisco Cubo. For him, however one of the biggest advantages is this: He wears a hearing aid, which he had to remove before each scan, making it difficult to understand the breathing instructions. “The new visual color codes that indicate when you must breathe in or hold your breath, make it much easier for me,” he explains.

“We are a clinic that emphasizes the personalized treatment of our patients. That’s also what our patients expect. Thus, SOMATOM X.cite is perfect for us. It’s not just one of the most versatile devices on the market, but it is also the first to facilitate personalized, individualized scanning. This marks an improvement for the doctors, for staff, and for the patient. As far as I’m concerned, this machine marks the beginning of a new era in computed tomography,” says Bastarrika.

Manuel Meyer is an independent journalist. He reports for Deutsche Ärztezeitung and other media from Madrid, Spain.