?It's like something out of Star Trek'

By Ed Brock

Nothing can make getting a bone scan fun, but for Tracy Chitwood the experience has become a little less tedious.

Chitwood, 34, of Hampton was at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale last week and spent about 20 minutes under the hospital's new Siemens e.cam gamma camera. It was a big improvement over the camera's predecessor in SRMC's Nuclear Medicine Department.

"I stayed moving the whole time," said Chitwood, who is being treated for cancer. "And you can watch movies."

The gamma camera is one piece of updated technology at SRMC that is intended to make patient treatment there better and easier. It has been on the job since August, and in the next month cardiologists at the hospital will also begin using the new CALYSTO Series IV physiomonitoring and information system from Witt Biological of Melbourne, Fla.

Early detection of diseases such as cancer and heart disease is the primary purpose of the e.cam system. It can examine body organs on a molecular level and detect problems that are too small to be seen by other methods such as an X-ray.

Along with its ability to play DVD movies for patients undergoing treatment (Chitwood watched "Grumpier Old Men") the e.cam gamma camera has a wider table that is designed to accommodate all kinds of body types and can hold more weight. Patients can go through standing or sitting and special infrared sensors allow the camera to bring the detector surfaces as close as possible to the patient, thus enhancing whole body imaging.

"We are very excited about the addition of the e.cam to Nuclear Medicine," said Ingrid Hall, manager of the Nuclear Medicine Department. "Its flexibility can accommodate each patient and it reduces patient set-up time."

In the old model Chitwood had to be strapped in to assure she didn't roll off the table.

"I don't like to be tied," Chitwood said.

The new camera is "like something out of Star Trek," nuclear medicine technologist David Dix said.

"Most patients who've gone through it have loved it mainly for the DVD," Dix said. "It gives the impression of top rate equipment."

Even for patients like Melvin Lockhart of Forest Park who wasn't on the table long enough to watch a DVD the camera is "much easier," Lockhart said.

Other uses for the camera include thyroid tests, stress tests, checkups for organ transplant recipients and detecting an infection site.

"With its unique combination of image quality, patient versatility and unsurpassed functionality, we expect our new e.cam camera to significantly reduce examination time while improving patient outcomes," said Dr. Balu Mani, chair of diagnostic imaging at SRMC.

The CALYSTO system will be used during cardiac catheterization procedures in which a special dye is injected into a patient and tracked by X-rays to find the exact location of blockages and clots in arteries. That knowledge is used to determine the best treatment such as medicines, surgery, angioplasty or stents. The procedure is also used to detect problems with heart valves or heart rhythms.

CALYSTO will allow doctors to review patient information from a variety of sources during the catheterization procedure, including ultrasound and other test results, making the process "easier and faster" and thus more efficient, said Donna Waggoner, SRMC's director of Heart and Vascular Care.

"In the past, if a patient came into our emergency room and a physician wanted to know what the most recent Stress Echo showed, he or she would have to locate the videotape and/or report for that patient," Waggoner said. "With the multi-modality review capability (of CALYSTO) the physician can pull up the patient's record containing multiple reports within seconds. This time saved expedites the clinical decision making process while improving departmental productivity and efficiency."