The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) Medical Center – Hillcrest has opened new angiography rooms with state-of-the-art imaging technology, completing two years of construction on the patient care suite that houses the technology. Angiography is to X-ray as a global positioning system is to an old-fashioned atlas. These rooms, and a similar room at Thornton Hospital, are the first systems of this type in San Diego County, according to Anne Roberts, M.D., Chief of Vascular and Interventional Radiology at UCSD.
Angiography is a high-tech technique in which a dye is injected into a blood vessel and X-rayed to provide a clear, detailed image of the vessel’s anatomy. Unlike standard X-ray or a standard angiographic room which would illuminate a flat, one dimensional image of the vessel, the computerized system allows interventional radiologists to see the vessel in a variety of dimensions and from different angles.
The new technology will help medical staff deliver faster and safer treatments to patients, according to Roberts. This sophisticated level of imaging is critical for diagnosing and treating vascular disorders, and for performing complex interventional vessel procedures such as opening blockages in arteries and veins using angioplasty and stents; treating bile duct problems, liver, kidneys and other organs. Interventional radiologists also use angiography to place catheters directly into tumors (allowing direct injection of chemotherapy into the tumor), and for cutting off blood flow to fibroids and aneurysms. In patients with internal bleeding, angiography can be used to guide catheter placement to block off the bleeding vessels. To prevent dangerous pulmonary blood clots from coursing through a patient’s body and lodging in the lung, the system guides placement of filters into vessels to catch the clots.
Although in the past interventional radiologists have been able to perform these procedures, the older technologies produced significant radiation exposure to both patients and staff. The new angiography system provides the same detail but at a lower and safer dose of radiation without compromising image quality.
Roberts said the most exciting aspects of the new system is that it will allow interventional radiologists to combine X-ray images and view them in a variety of ways from one dimension up to three dimensions. Although 3D has been an option before, the new system allows the radiologist to manipulate the images by rotating them at different angles and can even arrange the images as a “fly-through”, a process that emulates flying down the inside of an artery. All the data can also be reconstructed to produce what looks like a CT image, saving the patient from having to undergo a separate scan. This helps interventional radiologists work faster and more efficiently, which ultimately benefits the patient undergoing the procedure.
“This capability is very important,” said Roberts. “If we’re doing a procedure and we want to see structures outside the immediate vicinity where we are working, we can do that without moving the patient to the CT scanner. We can now reconstruct these images into a CT scan and use that data to guide us without having to move the patient, who may be in pain or very ill.”
Roberts said interventional radiologists also now have the ability to rotate the machine around the patient, This means they can inject the contrast agent, rotate the camera as they are injecting and can not only see where the contrast is going but it also lets the computer reconstruct the images giving them a comprehensive insider’s view of the vessel.
“The opening of this new cutting-edge service at our Hillcrest hospital underscores our commitment to the community,” said Dennis Moran, Associate Director of UCSD Medical Center. “We are dedicated to bringing the most advanced healthcare options to patients who reside in San Diego County.”
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