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37 Years of Radiology History

CT Coordinator Donna Grammes Recalls 37 Years of Radiology at St. Luke's

CT coordinator Donna
Grammes has seen CT
technology evolve and
progress in the last 37
years, like GE's 64-
slice CT scanner, which
can produce precise,
detailed images in
seconds.

Bethlehem, PA (3/22/2010) - It is evident - technology and innovation have changed the face of diagnostic radiology and how health care is delivered today.

Today's sophisticated systems, like multi-slice CT scanners, MRI and P.E.T. CT technologies, diagnose complex diseases more accurately and faster than ever before, saving lives along the way. It really wasn't that long ago, however, when clinicians relied predominantly on two-dimensional film X-rays for medical information that would help guide their treatment decisions.

Donna Grammes, CT coordinator at St. Luke's Hospital-Bethlehem Campus, remembers the early days. A 37-year veteran of the St. Luke's Radiology Department, Donna started her career in 1973 as an X-ray technologist. At that time, film X-rays were used extensively to visualize the inside of the body.

Donna vividly remembers the early technologies and practices, like hand-developing X-ray films in the hospital's dark room. She also has seen firsthand how advanced and sophisticated diagnostic radiology has become.

Remember the Region's First CT?

Donna does. St. Luke's installed the region's first Computed Tomography (CT) scanner in 1978, an early-generation CT scanner from GE Healthcare. It came to St. Luke's six years after CT technology was invented by British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield and South African-born physicist Allan Cormack.

The first CT systems were dedicated to head imaging only. Still, it was considered a breakthrough in the field. For the first time, detailed cross-sectional images of the human body could be produced. GE Healthcare representatives trained Donna on the equipment.

“St. Luke's was the first hospital in the region to offer this ‘leading-edge’ technology,” says Donna. “We acquired the GE 8800 CT, an early generation single-slice CT scanner. In the early days of CT, images were limited to head scans only, which took as long as 45 minutes to do, and images were only about the size of a half dollar.”

Although its use was limited to head scans, the early CT was considered state-of-the-art. “We had more information from that single-slice scan than we had with a flat X-ray,” says Donna. “We were finally able to see soft-tissue detail, like ventricles and fluid. The images gave clinicians the ability to identify and diagnosis an aneurysm, a stroke or a brain tumor. With the X-ray, we were limited to visualizing bony structures.”

Beyond its operation, Donna was also responsible for maintaining and adjusting the equipment. “Back then Bio-Med did not exist,” she says. “If an adjustment needed to be made, we were on the phone with our GE representative who worked with us to resolve the problem.”

CT is Mainstay for Diagnosing Diseases

Today, CT is a mainstay for diagnosing diseases at medical centers throughout the world. Donna has seen this technology evolve from the single-slice CT scanner to today's advanced 64-slice systems available at locations throughout St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network. “The 64-slice CTs are extremely fast and precise and can scan through a chest, abdomen and pelvis in 5.9 seconds,” says Donna. “This can prove especially critical in emergency situations when every second matters.”

The evolution and availability of advanced CT technology became essential when St. Luke's Hospital-Bethlehem Campus became a Regional Trauma Center, according to Donna. “CT’s role in cancer detection also has increased dramatically; today advanced scans are used extensively to image cancer patients with metastatic disease,” she says.

Donna can only imagine the advances to come in the future; she retires in April with vivid memories and lasting friendships.

A Remarkable Journey

Donna's interest in radiology developed early. After high school graduation in 1971, she became one of only eight students to be accepted into a two-year hospital-based radiology program that gave her on-the-job training and experience. She graduated from the program in 1973 and immediately joined St. Luke's, eventually becoming a CT scan coordinator at St. Luke's Hospital. Donna retires in April 2010 after 37 successful years at St. Luke's.