National Radiologic Technology week is celebrated from November 7 through 13 this year. On one fateful day, November 8, 1895, Dr. Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen could not have known the astounding and lasting effect his discovery of x-rays would have on the world. Being able to see the structures of the body without the surgical knife revolutionized medical care over 100 years ago. Today, we all benefit from advanced technologies that use x-rays, magnetic resonance, and ultrasound for imaging the internal structures.
Did you know that the radiologists who interpret the images at St. Mary’s are part of the elite group of Spectrum Radiologists who serve Maine Medical Center? Did you know that our Department of Imaging Services has 35 highly trained technologists? Twenty of them have credentials to perform exams in different modalities. This cross training is a big asset to ensure coverage in all areas during vacations and sick calls. Thirteen other staff members include radiology nurses and support personnel who are essential to the overall operation. As of September 30, the total number of imaging exams this year so far is 56,203. This exceeds 2009 figures.
During 2010, the Imaging Services Department has been given a fresh look with a new color scheme of blues and whites. Renovations are now complete in ultrasound, nuclear medicine, and cardiac stress testing, which contributes to a better patient experience.
In CT, our focus continues to be the acquisition of the clearest diagnostic images using the least amount of radiation. We still use the revised scanning protocols implemented in 2009, which produced dose reductions of 75% for head CTs, 66% for cervical spine CTs, and 50% for CTs of the lumbar spine and extremities.
Of course, the best approach is to make sure that the most appropriate imaging exam is done given the patient’s particular set of signs and symptoms. For example, best practice for pain in the right upper quadrant is an ultrasound of RUQ instead an x-ray. There is no radiation exposure with ultrasound or MRI exams. The American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria has an excellent guide to help physicians make the correct exam selection. When the guide is followed, it maximizes operational efficiency and helps to ensure patient safety. A link to the ACR website is now in Meditech and on the computer desktops of physician providers. Whenever radiology staff makes a site visit to a physician practice, the ACR Appropriateness Criteria is promoted then, too.