Mercy Fort Smith installs new cancer, cardiac scanner

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 1,295 views 

GE Omni Legend PET/CT scanner

Mercy Fort Smith has invested just under $3 million to install a new GE Omni Legend PET/CT scanner, with General Electric saying the Fort Smith hospital is the first in the country to have its latest imaging device.

The device is located in a newly renovated space in the hospital and its first use was April 10. Kevin Bowen, Mercy director of imaging services, said the device cost around $2.5 million and renovation of the space housing the scanner cost $450,000.

“Being the first hospital in the country to have this state-of-the-art scanner demonstrates our commitment to bringing the best services possible to our patients in the River Valley. We look forward to seeing the benefits as we utilize this new technology and to creating an improved overall experience,” Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospitals Arkansas, said in a statement.

According to Mercy, the Omni Legend uses an all-new digital detector design that delivers the highest sensitivity available in scanners. Benefits of the enhanced technology include shorter exam times, significantly greater lesion detectability and lower doses of radiation. PET (positron emission tomography) has almost exclusively been used with oncology patients as the first course of action after a cancer diagnosis to determine the extent and total involvement of the cancer, Mercy noted. The new device now allows oncology and cardiology patients to benefit from PET procedures, Bowen said.

Bowen also said the new device allows the hospital to double patient capacity and provide quick patient access when necessary.

“Due to the tremendous advancements and growth of our oncology program in Fort Smith, our PET schedule is routinely booked, and we were unable to see new patients for up to three weeks. We recognized this was an unacceptable wait time for our community and wanted to invest in opportunities that would allow patients to be seen in a much shorter timeframe,” Bowen said.

He also said Mercy hired one technologist who will begin in August. After that, the hospital plans to hire two more PET tech workers so the machine will have two tech workers on the machine Monday-Friday. The hospital now has just one tech on the machine on Wednesday and Thursdays.

The Mercy statement also noted that the Omni Legend scanner first launched in more than a dozen global locations in late 2022. It was named Best New Radiology Device at the 2023 EuroMinnies awards, where Europeans acknowledge the contributions in the field of radiology.

Mercy Fort Smith also is in the midst of an estimated $186 million expansion. Mercy began work on the main Fort Smith hospital in February 2022. The project will expand its emergency department from 29 to 50 rooms and boost beds in the intensive care unit from 38 to 64. The new ER will allow for about 25,000 more patient visits per year and include “special considerations for infectious disease and behavioral health patients.” The ER expansion includes a five-room secured area for behavioral health patients that is designed for patient and co-worker safety.