Imaging Department has just completed
its migration from the world of film
photography to that of digital with the installation of cutting-edge digital
technologists began using the new Selenia Dimensions mammography machine
manufactured by industry leader Hologic Inc. in March. The $300,000 machine was
purchased with the assistance of an $83,000 grant from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture’s Rural Development and $82,000 donated by the Rhea County
Digital mammography is
not new to the market but now with improved technology, Scott Miller, Rhea
Medical Imaging director, said he felt it was time to get on board.
“This unit takes
digital mammography to the next level.
The system we are now installing is two generations ahead of other
systems in this region,” he said.
Miller said he expects
the machine—the latest available in the world of mammography—to reduce patient
exam time for mammogram appointments from 30 minutes to 15.
“There’s no comparison
to how much quicker you can do it with digital technology,” he said.
With Rhea Medical’s
new digital machine, each image is displayed on a monitor next to the machine
in less than five seconds. No film to process. No uncomfortable waiting on
behalf of the patient while a technologist leaves to fetch an image.
As soon as the images
are saved, a radiologist is able to view them immediately, Miller added. On
analog (film based) machines, once a mammogram is taken of a patient’s breast,
the technologist has to step out of the room and wait two minutes for each of
four images to process onto film, Miller said, which can lead to more anxiety
for an eager patient.
“We’re decreasing the
anxiety to the patient because the wait time is less,” Miller said. “The tech
never leaves the room.”
mammography unit also gives the radiologists the ability to enhance contrast
and “zoom in” on a portion of the breast image, improving the accuracy of their
reports. Because the images are digital, they can be transmitted almost
immediately to the patient’s physician or another medical center, and patients
can be given a CD copy within minutes.
After just a few days
of using the digital machine, veteran Imaging Technologist Edie Shaver said patients
can tell a difference.
“Patients are excited
because they know it’s something new,” she said. “To me it’s unbelievable. We
pride ourselves on offering great service. We feel this will allow us to
improve even further.”
But the brand new
machine isn’t just faster like a digital camera. Imagine buying a digital
camera that can soon take pictures in 3-D.
In February the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration approved a new method already widely used in other
countries – tomosynthesis. Much like a photograph, traditional mammography only
captures a 2-D image of a patient’s breast. But tomosynthesis allows doctors
and patients to get a three-dimensional view of tissue.
Rhea Medical’s new
equipment comes ready-made for the new technique. Soon local patients can expect
to take advantage of it at Rhea Medical Center, according to Miller and Rhea
Medical Center CEO Ken Croom.
Only one other
hospital in East Tennessee has equipment as up-to-date as Rhea Medical’s.
“It’s here,” Croom
said. “You don’t have to drive long distances to reach an imaging center with
the highest technology. You have it here in Rhea County. It’s yours.”
Rhea Medical Center
has had its sight set on the equipment for nearly two years. With a concerted
effort between hospital administration, the board of directors, the Rhea
Medical Center Healthcare Foundation and the Rhea County community, enough
funds were raised to purchase the digital
unit this spring.
Croom said as soon as
Chief Radiologist Dr. Lebron Lackey pinpointed the need for the equipment, the
hospital decided to get the very best technology on the market.
“We wanted to have it
for Rhea County,” he said. “[We decided:] Let’s not buy last year’s technology.
Let’s buy next year’s technology.”
“We’re on the leading
edge of equipment,” Miller echoed.
Martin said even though the machinery is a bit different, Rhea Medical’s
healthcare professionals already know how to utilize it well.
“There is no learning
curve for us,” she said. “It’s the same positioning and graphics; it’s just a
But even with a
top-notch camera, great photography must come from a great photographer.
Technologist Shaver said the fact that Rhea Medical is one of the first to have
the equipment is only an added benefit to the unbeatable care that Rhea Medical
Center patients already receive.
“They’re not going to
find this anywhere else in southeast Tennessee,” she said. “How fortunate we
are to have this and the great radiologists we have here.”
“It just complements
everything else we have—the great radiologists and the great technologists.”