Medical Imaging: Maintaining the Inside Track

Cami Hoff, Radiologic Technologist, is a welcoming face in the Diagnostic Imaging Department at NorthBay Medical Center.

Ever since Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen accidentally discovered the x-ray in 1895, scientists have searched for new and better ways to see inside the human body. When it comes to diagnostic imaging, technology is everything.

Today, our hospitals and related facilities possess a veritable smorgasbord of high-tech equipment that allows doctors to look within the anatomy better than ever before.

Keeping on top of the latest technology, of course, is always an issue, says Jerry Wilcox, director of diagnostic imaging at NorthBay Medical Center and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital.

“In this business, even something eight years old is old, when it comes to technology. And that’s especially true if we’re using it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re constantly looking ahead to the next piece of equipment, weighing cost and value.”

That’s why NorthBay Healthcare is the proud new owner of a 64-Slice CT Scanner at VacaValley Hospital, a new E9 Logiq Ultrasound device at NorthBay Medical Center, sonosites, which are portable ultrasound devices, at both hospitals, and more.

“All our imaging modalities complement each other,” says Tammy Pagliari, lead sonographer at NorthBay Medical Center. “Some work better than others, depending on what the physician wants to see. But sometimes a second modality can be used to explore in more detail something the first choice revealed.”

So what is a “modality”?

For the uninitiated, here’s a summary of the imaging technology you may encounter as an inpatient or outpatient at NorthBay Healthcare facilities:

Ultrasound

Ultrasound, or ultrasonography, is a medical imaging technique that uses high frequency sound waves and their echoes to produce images. In a typical ultrasound, millions of pulses and echoes are sent and received each second. The probe can be moved along the surface of the body and angled to obtain various views.

The E9 Logiq is the latest addition to Diagnostic Imaging’s arsenal of equipment at NorthBay Medical Center, providing high-quality ultrasound images and new technology that allows 3-D views.

Ultrasound is often the modality of choice when a doctor wants to look at soft tissue. Also, there’s no radiation used to obtain images, so it’s perfect for pregnant women.

Nuclear Medicine

Nuclear medicine uses radioactive substances to help produce images of the body. Doctors can view how the body is functioning and its anatomy to help establish a diagnosis and treatment. Nuclear medicine imaging uses computers, detectors and radioactive substances to look at the body. Various types of radioactive isotopes are injected into the body, depending on the condition being studied. Nuclear medicine imaging is useful for detecting tumors, aneurysms (weak spots in blood vessel walls), irregular or inadequate blood flow to various tissues and inadequate organ functioning, such as thyroid and pulmonary deficiencies.

X-ray

X-rays are the oldest form of body imaging. They are to this day the most requested diagnostic modality at hospitals and medical facilities around the world. X-ray technology lets doctors see straight through human tissue to examine broken bones, cavities and swallowed objects with ease. Modified X-ray procedures can be used to examine softer tissue, such as the blood vessels or the intestines.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging is the method of choice for the diagnosis of many types of injuries and conditions because of the incredible detail it can produce of soft tissue. MRI uses an extremely powerful magnet that changes the direction of protons at the site being imaged. A radio frequency passes through this area and a computer translates the results into two-dimensional pictures. MRI is noninvasive, quick and safe, because the patient is not exposed to radiation. MRI can be used to diagnose multiple sclerosis, view torn ligaments, diagnose stroke in its earliest stages and infection in the brain, spine or joints.

CT ScanCT Scan

Computed Tomography (sometimes called a “CAT” scan) combines x-rays with advanced computer processing technology to create accurate, detailed images of a patient’s internal structures and organs. The patient lies in the center of a donut-shaped CT Scanner and its x-ray machine circles their body, focused on the area of interest. Software can be used to create 3-D or even 4-D (moving or animated) images for doctors.

This year, a new $1 million Philips 64-Slice CT Scanner was installed at VacaValley Hospital. “Slice” refers to how may x-ray images can be taken with each rotation of the scan.

In 2011, NorthBay Medical Center plans to install a new $2 million, 256-slice CT Scan. This premium CT Scan will perform detailed heart and brain perfusion studies, allowing doctors to see blood flow from arteries to veins. It also has the technology to perform “virtual” colonoscopies within minutes.

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