Path B: Device Developments

The history of device developments began during the Meneely era. This included a rotating single pinhole NaI detector that functioned as a low sensitivity gamma camera. The  Whole Body Counter (WBC) was one of the first in a medical center, and was used for metabolic and body composition studies, the latter based on 40K counting. Later, the WBC was modified to provide regional as well as total body measurements including high-energy gamma rays. Further descriptions developments in detectors, devices and computing systems are described in subsequent Path B sections.

→ First Clinical Imaging Device 3″ Picker scanner:  The device was a rectilinear scanner, obtained by VU in 1964. It was a 3” NaI (Tl) Scanner made by the Picker Nuclear Corporation. Image output devices included a real time dot tapper paper record and a black and white photo scan displayed on film. It cost about $40,000 and was obtained by Heyssel in the spring of 1964. The Division of Laboratories did not have enough money in the budget for such an expensive device. So, Bob Heyssel went to the Chairs of Medicine (Dave Rodgers), Radiology (Gene Klattee), Surgery (Bill Scott), as well as Frank Blood (Head of the Division of Laboratories), who controlled the Radioisotope Center budget, for their support. He told each of them that he had all but ¼ of the money needed. If the current Division head would come up with its share, the device could be acquired. Starting with nothing, Bob got the needed assurances, and the device was purchased.

The equipment was installed in a room on the second floor adjacent to the wet lab in the Radioisotope Center. The scanner was in use several months when Randy joined the program and without prior scanner experience they all learned together. The problem was how to set scan speed and display factors before you knew the range of counts that would be obtained. This persistent problem, was later resolved by connecting the device to memory devices, and then computers where image analysis and display processing was possible. Display settings was less of a problem with stationary gamma cameras as the picture got better as more counts were accumulated and displayed on the film. The CRT displayed patient data on film using lenses with 3 different f-stop so that one of the three images was almost guaranteed to be useable.

Early Clinical Studies
Henry Wagner, and John McAfee, and the Johns Hopkins group led the nuclear medicine imaging world. They and the University of Chicago group, led by Harper and Beck published high quality displays of their clinical scanner studies using brain, kidney, liver, kidney and lung seeking tracers. Their work stimulated great interest in the many new uses of radioisotope scanning technology as well as leading the way in development of new radioactive imaging agents. The Vanderbilt Picker scanner was used initially to image 1) patients with suspect brain tumors with  203Hg to image patients and 2) patients hyperthyroidism, and suspect thyroid cancer, with 131I. The Hopkins pictures were of higher quality than we were able to get at the time. Our studies expanded to include imaging the liver with 198Au colloid, the lung with 131I macro aggregated albumen, and the heart with 132Cs. It was after 1964 progress increased rapidly when Paul Harper at Univ of Chicago demonstrated the remarkable properties of 99mTc as a versatile tracer. The number of studies grew slowly in the early years. Repeat scan studies were often needed, as images were frequently sub optimal due to poor display settings. This led us to collect data from scanning devices in buffer memories, and later to digital computers for analysis and display. Advanced computing tools were developed were accomplished in collaboration with physics and engineering students and faculty who were part of our research team.

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