Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Medical imaging technology displayed

St. Luke?s new machines are on-line for mammography month

Express Staff Writer

A CT Scanner is a tool medical personnel can use to develop images that show more clearly patients? injuries or disease. Like a GIS map, technologists can arrange information about the body to focus on specific areas of the body and specific tissues. Photo by David N. Seelig

The new LightSpeed CT Scanner in use nearly six months at St. Luke?s Wood River Medical Center south of Ketchum was celebrated last week in a special reception sponsored by the St. Luke?s Wood River Foundation.

The organization raised $1.2 million in donations to provide the upgraded system for the hospital. The machine is a new generation computed-tomography scanner, a diagnostic tool that provides physicians, particularly radiologists, with three-dimensional images that can be used to diagnose brain and spinal cord injuries, as well as some diseases of the liver, lungs, kidneys, and other abdominal organs.

The scanner has been used for over 700 patients this summer alone. Different from an MRI, which uses radio waves to excite proton charges in tissues to create an image, the CT Scanner uses X-ray tubes and detectors to create images.

?How it does this is Nobel Prize stuff,? said Dr. Tom Broderick, who is a radiologist for the hospital?s Department of Diagnostic Imaging. ?These are the best machines in the St. Luke?s system.?

Broderick said the CT Scanner is particularly good at pinpointing acute hemorrhages in the brain. The MRI is better for checking for soft tissue injuries, particularly to cartilage and spinal disks or tumors in muscles.

The MRI was also funded by the hospital foundation to the tune of $1.8 million in 2002. Funding for a new software and processing system used to assist doctors reviewing mammograms will also be finalized soon, said Foundation President Martha Reed.

The system, called R2, will be in use in time for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

?The (CT Scanner) is just one element of the enduring commitment in our valley,? Reed said, addressing the party that came to view the machines, Thursday. ?You can see first hand your gifts.?

Broderick described the speed of the CT Scanner, which is designed to provide more detail than older machines. He said the machine could process better images, more quickly and with less X-ray exposure to the patient than previous scanners.

With the new breast cancer processor?which is much like a do-it-yourself, computer automated developing machine at the photo store?Broderick said doctors would be able to give patients the results of the mammograms within 24 hours.

?It?s basically another set of eyes for the radiologist,? said Tracey Erb, a mammography specialist, who gave a presentation of how the technology can catch disease in the early stages of development.

Film no longer has to be sent to Boise to be reviewed, Broderick said. Patients used to have to wait seven to 10 days for results.

?It greatly reduces patient anxiety,? he added.

It is unusual for a small rural hospital to have so much computer aided detection technology, Broderick said. The community is already seeing the benefits of its generosity.

?There isn?t a month that goes by that I don?t get a call from out of state asking how we do it,? said St. Luke?s CEO Bruce Jensen. ?It?s our community.?

Reed said part of the foundation?s current mission in building an endowment to support the hospital over the long term is to recruit new donors.

She said the number of people who have donated to the hospital is relatively small, but many have made large donations.

?Regardless of the amount, we would like to broaden our base,? she said.

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