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New scanning technology offers better look into hearts

By JR Ortega
Aug. 16, 2010 at 3:16 a.m.


Positron emission tomography scan highlightsUses radionuclide Rubidium-82.

Takes 45 minutes, compared to other scans, which can take several hours.

The radionuclide limits the amount of radiation a person receives and only lasts 75 seconds inside the heart.

Takes high quality photos for stronger images. The new scan catches 96 percent of patients with heart disease compared to 82 percent with the old scans.

Patrick Corn receives his medical care in Victoria.

The 69-year-old received a triple bypass at a local hospital last month, after a blockage was found using a positron emission tomography scan, a chemical stress test that uses a short-lived radionuclide which lowers the radiation a person receives.

The scan arrived in the office of Parikh, Chandna and Gaalla office last month and is the only one in the Crossroads, said Dr. Harish Chandna, a local board certified interventional cardiologist.

"It's more diagnosis of coronary heart disease," Chandna said. "It's better to diagnose a heart disease before somebody has a heart attack. The Crossroads area is a very high coronary heart disease area."

There are fewer than 10 scans in Texas that use the radionuclide rubidium-82, which is what Chandna's office uses.

Corn and several others who have had the test at the Victoria Heart and Vascular Center have been saved because of the new technology.

"It really was not a bad experience," the Victoria resident said. "I see no reason to go out of town when you have competent doctors here to do the job."

The center used to use single photon emission computed tomography, which only caught 82 percent of blockages and took several hours to complete.

The new tomography catches 96 percent of blockages, has a clearer picture because of rubidium-82 and it only lasts 75 seconds in the human body.

The system was bought refurbished, has full warranty and cost about $1 million, Chandna said.

Purchasing the scan was a steal, he said.

"It's a new technology so people don't have to go out of town," Chandna said. "At least we can do it and diagnose it without doing an invasive test in the hospital."

The procedure takes about 45 minutes compared to the old tomography scan, which could take four hours.

First, the patient is prepped while lying down on a rolling imaging table and then rolled into the small, narrow tube with nothing obstructing the heart.

Amelia Gonzalez, the technical director, then uses a computer in another room to inject the radionuclide into the heart so the first set of images can be shot.

A series of four sets of pictures are shot; a transmission and emission rest and a transmission and emission stress, she said.

Photos of the heart at rest and under stress is what shows blockages like the one Corn had, she said.

Patients used to make multiple trips for a scan, she said.

"They would had to make a separate trip for that," she said. "Now they're coming and in 30 minutes, they are getting the test done and they don't have to make a separate trip."

Again, Corn is happy to have all the services close by, he said.

He has not been allowed to drive or have any stress to his upper body.

An appointment last week showed he's not ready to get back to his job at the linen department in the Stevenson Prison Unit in Cuero.

"Everything was OK but I can't go back to work yet. I'm not 100 percent," he said. "It looked bad enough that they would go ahead and use the PET Scan. I was glad that they used that machine."

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