Historic CT scanner on display at Mayo Clinic

ct scanner mayo image2.jpg
ct scanner mayo image2.jpg

Mayo Clinic is extending a historical exhibit to showcase its 40-year-old CT scanner — the first one ever used in the United States.

"It is such a historical part of medicine," saidCynthia McCollough, professor of medical physics and biomedical engineering and director of the Mayo CT Clinical Innovation Center.

Years ago, the scanner was housed in the Damon Parkade, where the Gonda Building is now located, she said.

"When that museum went away, it went back in a crate," McCollough said. More recently, it has been available for viewing in a radiology-department nook, but few patients know the medical significance of the device and make the effort to seek it out.

McCollough refers to the historical device as "the Model T" of imaging.


Before it was developed, patients were subjected to extraordinarily painful tests — pneumoencephalogram — that were not very accurate.

Dyes or air would be injected, the patient moved around and "the minute it hit their brain, it was just a tremendous headache and throwing up," she said.

The British developer of the device happened to get invited to speak at a New York conference that a Mayo physician attended.

That led to a trip to Great Britain to take a look.

The doctor came back to Rochester and said, "This is game-changing. We have to check into this."

The Mayo board essentially approved purchase of the device — at whatever price was necessary — by Dr. Bud Baker, if Baker believed the device was the future of imaging. He did, and he bought the scanner for shipment back to Rochester and the first scan in June 1973.

McCollough said the original scanner only took images of the head.

Later models took images of slices of the body as a whole. Improvements continued through current times, including the ability of Mayo staff to scan conjoined twins and produce models of the twins' organs so surgeons could physically turn and handle the organs for plans to guide the separation surgery.


In 1976, one in four patients seen by Mayo neurologists got CT scans of some kind, Baker reported that year in a journal article.

"Mayo has more publications on CTs than any other institution," McCollough said.

The exhibit highlights "the tremendous benefit that CT imaging has brought to us in the last 40 years," she said. "It was truly a remarkable advance in medical technology, in medical care."

Health reporter Jeff Hansel writes the Pulse on Health column every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHansel.

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