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New camera at MDMC takes photos of person's insides

Thursday, July 24, 2003

(Photo)
Dr. Ali Nawaz Khan and Bill Howard, nuclear medicine technologist, look over the results of a patient's stress test
(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON - Missouri Delta Medical Center has a new camera, but this one is not for taking pictures of people's outsides, but their insides.

"The Philips/ADAC Skylight Gamma Camera is the latest in technology and is in a class of its own," according to Sharon Urhahn, MDMC's marketing director.

"In a continued effort to provide state-of-the-art nuclear stress testing, MDMC has acquired one of the world's most advanced new cameras in nuclear cardiology," said Dr. Ali Nawaz Khan. "As a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, I can proudly say with confidence that Missouri Delta now has state-of-the-art equipment which is as good as any of the university hospitals anywhere."

Urhahn said the nearest facility with a camera of this type is in Paducah, Ky.

While MDMC has offered nuclear medicine since the 1970s, this new camera "gives us capability to do things faster," according to Bill Howard, a registered nuclear medicine technologist at MDMC, and is another example of the hospital continuing to stay abreast with technology.

The floor-mounted, duel-headed camera can image patients in more positions and provides a more comfortable environment for patients, he said.

"It's a lot more open design. It doesn't give you that 'closed-in' feeling so bad," Howard said. While old imaging machines wrapped around patients like a CAT scan, "this one hangs from four posts."

The new camera also includes software improvements. "Philips/ADAC is really known for being a leader in the field of nuclear medicine," said Howard.

The aim of testing anyone is to catch conditions such as heart disease earlier and more accurately, according to Khan.

"The incidence of the heart disease is going up in the world and, especially in the United States and the Southeast Missouri, is one of the highest incidence areas in the United States for new onset of diabetes. With this cholesterol onslaught which is being ushered in with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and our sedentary lifestyles, physicians are struggling to prevent heart disease," said Khan. "The unfortunate outcome of the success with treating potentially fatal heart attacks is that more people are living with weaker hearts and suffering the consequences of congestive heart failure. The answer to this problem is early and more accurate diagnosis of heart disease - prevent heart attacks before they happen."

Regular treadmill stress tests used previously are accurate only about 78 percent of the time, according to Khan.

"Then physicians started experimenting with radioisotopes and were successful in improving the accuracy of the stress tests by using radioactive isotopes such as thallium," Khan said. "These are chemically inert substances that stain the heart for a short while without causing damage and give off radiation. The pattern of this radiation when measured and visualized gives us a living picture of the heart. This revolution led to the birth of the nuclear stress and nuclear cardiology. Now there is board certification in nuclear cardiology."

The benefit of these tests over the regular stress test is the pictures actually show physicians how the blood flows in the heart with exercise and at rest. By comparing these two sets of images the doctors can tell if a particular area of the heart is getting enough blood flow to it.

Also known as the Gamma camera or the Anger Camera after the inventor Hal Anger, according to Khan, these visual images improve diagnosis accuracy for heart disease from 78 to 92 percent.

"That has been the biggest breakthrough in the early diagnosis of heart disease," Khan said. "Now not only we can tell whether the patient has heart disease or not more accurately, but we can also tell which portion of the heart and how much of the heart is affected. We can also tell if there is scar tissue in any portion of the heart muscle or the heart muscle is alive."

After a blockage in the heart's blood vessels develops slowly over a period of many years, a portion of the heart sometimes "goes to sleep" in an effort to protect itself as it is not getting enough blood supply, according to Khan, and is called "hibernating myocardium."

"Sometimes we are able to pinpoint that with help of a nuclear cardiac stress test and benefit patient by opening arteries to that part of the heart. After all there is no point in supplying blood to dead tissue that will not start working again."

Officials noted it does other things besides heart imaging including bone scans. "It brings a lot to the community as far as capabilities," Howard agreed.