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MiniCAT, a flat-panel-display-based (FPD) imaging system, yields head and neck images that are superior to those from much larger and bulkier computed tomography (CT) scanners.  This is the conclusion of a scientific study that includes Web Stayman of Xoran Technologies, Inc. (stayman@xorantech.com), the Ann Arbor, MI-based company that makes the MiniCAT scanner. Using MiniCAT may provide additional advantages to the patient and physician, as it’s designed specifically to deliver low radiation doses to the head and neck.  Whereas CT scans usually require a trip to a different facility or department, MiniCAT's one-square-meter footprint enables it to be installed at the point-of-care, which includes installation within a specific department at a hospital, a surgical or imaging center, or a doctor's office.

Central to the MiniCAT design is a flat-panel x-ray detector, based on the same kind of technology as flat-panel monitors for computers except they detect (x-ray) photons rather than give off visible light.  Because of the small size of their detection elements, these panels have the capacity for extraordinarily high resolution in all directions. 

The researchers compare images from a traditional CT and the MiniCAT for imaging of the temporal bone, the portion of the skull that contains the inner ear and its components. This portion of the human anatomy is notoriously difficult to image due to the very fine details and the alignment of some features on non-standard imaging planes. The width of one of the inner ear bones, the stapes, is about the length of the date on a U.S. dime.  In the comparison, the researchers find details (a facial nerve canal) that are clear in the MiniCAT scan and obscured in the traditional CT.  To be able to resolve such important structures may have an important impact on clinical diagnosis and treatment of temporal bone diseases. (Thursday, July 26, 2007, 11:36 AM, Paper TH-C-AUD-9.)

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