Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park has installed a $986,000 computerized axial tomography (CAT) scanner, used on an out-patient basis for many diagnostic procedures that once required hospitalization and exploratory surgery.

The new Picker Synerview 600 CAT scanner is capable of producing in one second a complete, clear cross-section picture of internal body organs. Hospital spokesmen say the average cost of a CAT scan to patients is $141.

The CAT scanner, a sophisticated piece of radiographic equipment employing computer technology in conjunction with traditional x-ray techniques and television screens, produces high-detail, three-dimensional cross-sectional pictures of the human body that are often difficult or impossible to reach with conventional diagnostic x-rays.

With the CAT scanner, a picture of every organ, bone and tissue is produced just as it exists in the body, enabling the doctor to locate, for example, tumors, hematomas, aneurysms, and disc disease more precisely than with other testing procedures. Doctors are able to see physiological processes such as blood flow and oxygen metablolism taking place within the body.

While normal x-ray pictures show length and width, the CAT scanner adds the dimension of depth. The procedure takes only seconds to perform and officials say it uses about the same amount of radiation as one ordinary chest x-ray, and is painless.

The new scanner has the capability to scan at a faster rate and take more pictures within a shorter time than older scanners. Officials say what takes 25 seconds to scan with models as little as two years old can be accomplished in two to five seconds on the new instrument.