When people talk about technology and how it plays a role in their lives they usually think about computers, tablets and smart phones. When I think about technology the first thing that pops into my mind is Medical Imaging. Having been in Healthcare for almost 30 years I’ve seen some major leaps and bounds in how we use Imaging Technology to diagnose diseases, visualize fractures and gather information on all parts of our bodies. Today imaging information is collected faster than ever and with detail that 30 years ago was unimaginable. Over the decades Medical Imaging has grown into specialties that include different imaging modalities such as CT, Ultrasound and MRI. Even Radiologists who years ago used to only interpret X-Rays have gone on to specialize in areas such as Gastrointestinal Imaging or Neurological Imaging. Today the diversity of specialized imaging exams and expert interpreters are giving providers a higher level of diagnostic information to better treat and heal the people they see.
However this technology and expertise is not something that is only found in large teaching hospitals. It’s found here in Wickenburg in our community hospital. Over the years the Medical Imaging department has grown from an “X-Ray Department” to a State of the Art Diagnostic Medical Imaging Center. Upgrades and improvements are constantly happening. WCH has always been looking and putting into place technology to better serve the community and the people that call Wickenburg home.
All areas of the department have seen major changes. This last year was one of the busiest as equipment was upgraded and enhanced. Last year we upgraded our MRI unit to a brand new Siemens Espree. This unit came to us direct from the showroom floor with no stops along the way. The Siemens MRI has the widest and shortest bore on the market. What that means to the patient is that the long narrow tunnel most people are used to is no longer there. This MRI system has the largest opening and the shortest tunnel available. This means that those who are extremely claustrophobic can now get through a study much easier. When a patient looks up during a scan they won’t have the machine a couple of inches from their nose but in most cases actually have their head outside of the system and the detail and quality of the images is amazing.
A few months ago we also added a new Ultrasound system to complement our existing system. A brand new Toshiba Xario was brought on board to prepare us for our new Venous Ablation program. The Xario has imaging advances that enable us to visualize blood vessels and the valves in those vessels to help us diagnose those with circulatory problems. The Xario’s capabilities however go much farther than that. We are seeing detail in breast tissue, thyroids and kidneys like never before and we’re accurately seeing things that are smaller. The old adage of early detection is so true that the sooner you can see something the better the outcome for patients. Again a new tool to help providers find what may be ailing a patient of theirs.
Of course one of the pieces of equipment that I am proud to have at WCH is our Full Field Digital Mammography System by Hologic. Digital mammography provides a level of detail that an analogue system did not have. Two extremely important upgrades our system has had is the addition of a CAD or Computer Aided Detection package. What a CAD does is give the interpreting radiologist a second pair of eyes to help find lesions or abnormalities that might difficult to find. The other upgrade we have added is Quantra. It’s been determined that women with dense breasts may have a mass or lesion that is hidden within that dense tissue. The Quantra measures the changes in the dense tissue to see if there might be something that needs further attention. In the past there was no accurate way to measure the tissue. Today we have another tool that helps with early breast cancer detection. What really makes us stand apart from most mammography centers is our official designation as a “Breast Center of Excellence”. This is a high standard of achievement that few places have. It’s an acknowledgement of the expertise of the Mammographers, the Radiologists and the quality of the equipment we have.
Most people think of X-Rays as those black and white films that are hung on a view box to see the bones in your body. What people don’t know is that those are long gone. No more heavy cassettes to lug around or smelly darkrooms to develop your x-rays. Today we take an exposure and within seconds an image is produced on the screen. Today all Medical Imaging is digital read by a Radiologist on a dedicated computer with most reports available to an ordering provider within an hour of exam completion. An upgrade in the Imaging department this past fall brought us a Shimadzu Digital Radiographic Fluoroscopy System. This new X-Ray room has many new advancements to provide better and quicker images. Some of which is the latest Flat Panel Technology as well as Slot Radiography that allows us to image the entire spine in one exposure. This is a great tool for Chiropractors and Orthopedic surgeons. The real benefit to patients with Digital Radiography is the smaller dose of radiation a patient would receive from an x-ray when compared to a conventional wet processed-ray. Patient safety is improved with digital x-rays.
There are other technologies and advancements in the Medical Imaging department at WCH. Our Toshiba CT Scanner was the first 64 slice scanner in the rural Arizona market. It’s been producing outstanding images for all types of CT exams from Coronary studies of the heart to CT Angiography and now it’s being used in our Interventional Pain Management program. Our dedicated DEXA system has also been diagnosing those with Osteoporosis for years. On top of all the technology we offer we are also nationally accredited in CT, MRI, General Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine, Echocardiography and Mammography. Soon we will also be receiving our accreditation in Breast Sonography and Vascular Sonography. These are Accreditations that signify the highest standards of care possible.
However as great as the technology is it will never be greater than the team of technologists that perform the exams. Without them none of the quality studies we do are possible. Wickenburg Community Hospital has a group of individuals that bring a high level proficiency and competency to every patient they come in contact with in the Medical Imaging Department. Each has gone to school to learn a profession that can make a change in a patient’s life. WCH is very fortunate to have these individuals. They take what they do seriously and are always looking to better themselves with advanced certifications and education. In our community hospital we always talk about World Class Service. I have seen the staff of the Imaging department deliver that World Class Service time and time again.
By Peter Stachowicz, Director of Ambulatory Services Wickenburg Community Hospital