By Jenny Vann, RTT
What is a simulation?
Simulation is the process of positioning your body in a way that is comfortable and that can be reproduced for each radiation treatment. Radiation therapy precisely and accurately targets tumors, so a simulation is necessary for delivering customized radiation treatment for each patient. At simulation, you will have a computed tomography (CT) scan, which your doctor uses to help delineate the target area and the normal tissues. Read more about simulation in Dr. Everett’s blog here.
What technology is used at CT simulation?
Our Machine and Equipment:
At Alliance Cancer Care, we have a state-of-the-art Siemens CT scanner that provides diagnostic quality images comparable to local diagnostic facilities within our region. We have a 64-slice scanner that allows us to obtain images faster, which means we can finish your scan faster. This machine is a large-bore CT scanner, meaning the center of the scanner is large enough to allow patients to be comfortable and not feel closed in like other types of imaging machines. Our goal is to keep you as comfortable as possible during the process of planning your customized radiation treatment.
Sometimes our physicians order intravenous (IV) contrast during scans to highlight different parts of the body. Contrast may help your planning team to see different parts of the body in relation to the treatment location during the planning process. Your physician will determine if this is necessary for your specific type of treatment. We use IV contrast that is specifically timed with your CT scan to optimize the quality of the images for your doctor.
We use an application called IMAR (Iterative Metal Artifact Reduction) that takes the initial CT images and “reconstructs” them to decrease metal artifacts and thus create better images. This application is used if you have any metal in your body that cannot be removed, such as dental fillings, spine implants, shoulder implants, pacemaker, hip implants, and extremity implants. Without this application, the CT scan would appear streaked due to the metal artifact, and not give the best quality image for your treatment planning.
Gating technology is used for patients when the treatment area is moving, most often due to breathing. We commonly use gating in patients with lung or abdominal tumors. We use a device and computer to monitor the area of interest during the CT scan and create a “movie” to demonstrate the movement inside the body with breathing. This allows us to define the movement in the target area and is used during the treatment planning process to provide better coverage of the treatment area. To read more about the process of respiratory gating, watch Dr. Everett’s video. We also have information about “How we hit a moving target” in our blog here.
In conclusion, CT simulation is an essential process in planning your treatment, and state-of-the-art equipment is our priority when delivering exceptional care close to home.