Siemens Launches World’s First Photon-Counting CT Scanner

By News Release

Today, Siemens Healthineers launched the new NAEOTOM Alpha, the world’s first CT scanner with photon-counting technology, during a live-streamed virtual event.

Photon-counting scans contain more useable data, due to the fact that photon-counting technology directly detects each X-ray photon and its energy level instead of first converting it into visible light as with conventional CT imaging.

The NAEOTOM Alpha is designed to transform the information from X-ray photons that pass through a patient's body, and are received by a detector, into a detailed 3-dimensional image. The images delivered by the system can be used by a trained physician as an aid in diagnosis or can be used by trained staff as an aid in diagnosis, treatment preparation and radiation therapy planning.

“With these features, we believe the NAEOTOM Alpha provides the best basis for clinical decision-making and for high-value patient care,” said Philipp Fischer, Head of Computed Tomography at Siemens Healthineers at the launch event.

The device uses the emerging CT technology of photon-counting detectors, which can measure each individual X-ray that passes through a patient's body, as opposed to current systems which use detectors that measure the total energy contained in many X-rays at once. By “counting” each individual X-ray photon, more detailed information about the patient can be obtained and used to create images with less information that is not useful in the review and analysis.

It's the first new major technological improvement for Computed Tomography (CT) imaging to be cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in nearly a decade. “Today’s action represents the first major new technology for computed tomography imaging in nearly a decade and underscores the FDA’s efforts to encourage innovation in areas of scientific and diagnostic progress,” said Laurel Burk, Ph.D., assistant director of the Diagnostic X-ray Systems Team in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Opening new clinical capabilities

The NAEOTOM Alpha opens up new capabilities, such as scanning a patient’s lung at a high scan speed and obtaining high-resolution images with inherent spectral information – without the patient having to hold their breath. This spectral information also helps to identify materials inside the body that can even be removed from the image should they obstruct an area of interest. This helps physicians to assess issues quickly and offers the possibility to begin treatment early. Through the reduction in radiation dose, regular examinations such as lung cancer screenings using CT imaging can become routinely available for larger patient populations. And the high resolution reveals even small structures, taking clinical decision-making to a new level of confidence. The technical complexity of photon-counting CT imaging does not mean increased complexity for the user, thanks to myExam Companion from Siemens Healthineers.

“More than 15 years ago, work on photon-counting CT and this clinical vision started at Siemens Healthineers. We always believed in the tremendous clinical value and relentlessly worked on it together with our partners,” said Fischer. “Today, with the introduction of the NAEOTOM Alpha, we are taking a huge step in furthering patient care in a wide range of clinical domains by effectively showing things impossible to see with conventional CT scans. This required a radical rethinking of practically every technological aspect of computed tomography.”

Profound impact in many clinical fields

With a rotation speed of 250 milliseconds and two X-ray tubes and detectors (Dual Source), the NAEOTOM Alpha is not only the first photon-counting CT system on the market, but is also a very powerful, fast and precise CT scanner.

The NAEOTOM Alpha delivers speed thanks to its Dual Source design and benefits from spectral information and high resolution for removing obstructions caused by calcifications. This enables diagnostic assessment and allows more cardiac patients to benefit from CT imaging – even those with a high calcium burden.

The high precision offered by the NAEOTOM Alpha is also highly beneficial in oncology, where reliable and consistent evaluation of disease progress is the most important factor. Therefore, clinical images need to be as conclusive and consistent as possible to make the right decisions. In pulmonology, images need to contain all meaningful answers in as few scans as possible to avoid treatment delays and potentially severe consequences for patients. These needs are met and often exceeded by the NAEOTOM Alpha’s features. Its clinical images inherently carry more information than ever possible before for precise diagnosis, follow-up, and treatment.

The University Hospital Augsburg in Germany installed its NAEOTOM Alpha CT in April 2021.

“We are very impressed by initial results,” said Professor Thomas Kröncke, MD, Head of the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, University Hospital Augsburg1. “We can see better and see more due to the enhanced iodine visualization, artifact reduction and high special resolution – all with using less radiation and less IV contrast material.”

Expanding CT’s role in clinical decision-making

The implications of this innovation from Siemens Healthineers are far-reaching for patients and physicians, and may profoundly change the way that CT imaging is performed: It adds clinical value for fast, reliable diagnoses by the physician by improving image quality, potentially leading to less uncertainty for physicians and patients. The new technology helps in almost every clinical field, but especially when fine structures have to be evaluated. Customer feedback from testing with actual final systems confirms that ambition.

“In oncology, we can break down more precisely which tumor types we are dealing with and thus treat them in a more targeted and effective way. It is like a veil that is now lifting. The new technology is a radical improvement on previous imaging. This will redefine our clinical decision-making right from scan one,” said Professor Kröncke.

More than 20 NAEOTOM Alpha systems have already been installed and are used in clinical routine. So far, more than 8,000 patients have been scanned.

The statements by customers of Siemens Healthineers described herein are based on results that were achieved in the customer's unique setting. Because there is no “typical” hospital or laboratory and many variables exist (e.g., hospital size, samples mix, case mix, level of IT and/or automation adoption), there can be no guarantee that other customers will achieve the same results.

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Siemens Launches World’s First Photon-Counting CT Scanner.  Appl Radiol. 

By News Release| November 16, 2021

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