november 2018

Helping Hammersmith Hospital harness the latest in nuclear medicine

Creating the ideal conditions for the installation and use of the UK’s first two SPECT CT Scanners has involved ME Construction in reconfiguring and refurbishing part of Hammersmith Hospital.

Formerly the Military Orthopaedic Hospital and, later, the Special Surgical Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital is a major teaching hospital in west London that is renowned for its strong research connections. The hospital offers a range of services, including renal, haematology, cancer and cardiology care, as well as housing the regional specialist heart attack centre. In addition to being a major base for Imperial College, the hospital’s Acton site also hosts the clinical sciences centre of the Medical Research Council.

ME Construction’s project manager, Sean Franks, explained, “The project to enable the SPECT CT scanners to be installed began in January 2017 and was completed by the end of April.

“In modifying the existing facilities at the hospital to take these new scanners, we’ve also prepared changing rooms, toilets, office space and waiting areas – all of which are for use by those who’ll be using the scanners.”

Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is a nuclear medicine tomographic imaging technique that uses gamma rays. It’s similar to conventional nuclear medicine planar imaging using a gamma camera – otherwise known as scintigraphy.

A SPECT CT scan comprises two components - a SPECT scan and a computed tomography (CT) scan. The images from each scan are then fused – and these fused images can provide more accurate information about the anatomy and function of the area being scanned.

SPECT images are obtained following an injection which contains a small amount of radioactivity. This is used to determine how an area of the body is functioning. During the SPECT procedure, a special camera rotates in a 360-degree arc allowing for reconstruction of three dimensional images.

CT images are obtained while the patient lies on the same imaging bed. The bed slides through the centre of the scanner. Again, the scanner rotates over a 360-degree arc, allowing for three-dimensional image reconstruction.

The weight of each of the SPECT CT scanners is significant, so ME Construction had to carry out an amount of structural work at Hammersmith Hospital. This involved breaking out the existing floor screed to allow a new lightweight concrete slab to be formed to accommodate the Scanners.

There are no risks involved in the nuclear medicine SPECT scan or the CT scan procedures but, because the test involves a small dose of ionising radiation from the radiopharmaceutical injected into the patient’s vein, and also from the CT scan, Sean said, “The existing blockwork walls were demolished and the new lead shielding to new partition walls erected.”

Pointing out that Hammersmith Hospital is a constantly busy, working hospital, Sean added that, with the hospital’s specialist heart attack theatres and the imaging department being on the same level as the space for the new scanners and their related rooms, along with the floors above and below being constantly busy with patients, there were some major challenges for ME Construction’s staff carrying out their work.

“Obviously, for the sake of everyone else in the hospital, we had to keep noise and disruption to an absolute minimum - and ensure that we allowed constant access and egress for staff and patients,” Sean said. “From that point of view, the whole project has proved extremely challenging.

“I’m really proud of my team – the way they worked to keep the work more or less on schedule, even working at evenings and some nights to make up for any lost time.

“It’s great that Hammersmith has the chance to be the first hospital in the UK to make use of this new development in nuclear medicine – and it’s exciting to know that ME Construction has played a key part in making this happen,” Sean added.