Healdsburg District Hospital's radiology department took its first big step into the 21st century this week with the first images taken by the hospital's new $1.1 million CT scanner.

The device, a 64-slice digital scanner, replaces an single-slice scanner installed in 1999. The faster, more powerful scanner is part of a $6 million, three-phase renovation project that will completely revamp the hospital's imaging facilities.

Hospital CEO Evan Rayner said the new scanner was a priority because the older scanner had limited capabilities, often placing the hospital at a competitive disadvantage. In cases where patients required more advanced imaging, they were often sent "south," Rayner said.

"We are excited to bring this state-of-the-art technology and some of its superiority in imaging to the north county, Santa Rosa and the region," Rayner said.

The Toshiba scanner produces detailed 3-D images of the blood vessels and the heart. And it's fast. Scans of the chest or abdomen can be done in 10 to 15 seconds, while scans of the brain take only 5 to 6 seconds, according to a visiting Toshiba representative who is assisting Healdsburg staff.

The money to purchase the scanner came from a $3 million matching grant from the Mill Valley-based Kalmanovitz Charitable Foundation to the Healthcare Foundation Northern Sonoma County, or HFNSC, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support medical services in the north county.

"We've matched about $1.6 million," said Yvonne Kreck, HFNSC chairwoman and the owner of Mill Creek Vineyards. "There's still money to be raised."

To accommodate the 3,500-pound CT scanner, the imaging room that housed the old scanner had to be completely upgraded at a cost of $500,000. The hospital reinforced the floor to support the extra weight and installed new electrical conduit and an HVAC system to deal with the extra heat put off by the device.

The next two phases of the hospital's radiology department renovations include a $750,000 upgrade to the 30-year-old radiology and fluoroscopy facilities and ongoing replacement of its radiology equipment. This includes new X-ray, fluoroscopy and ultrasound equipment, portable X-ray machines and a X-ray C-arm for surgical uses.