BENNINGTON, VT—January 17, 2017—Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s (SVMC) radiologic therapists have completed advanced training in VisionRT, one of the technologies available on the linear accelerator (linac). SVMC became one of the first hospitals in the region to be equipped with this linac technology when they acquired the machine in 2016.
“Radiation patients typically undergo 5 – 7 weeks of daily treatments. This technology allows us to improve every aspect of that challenging time; treatments will be faster and more targeted,” said Matthew Vernon, MD, radiation oncologist and interim medical director of the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center. “The benefit to local patients is tremendous.”
In the past patients who were being treated for cancer of the breast or chest area posed a particular challenge as the position of the cancer moved as the patient inhaled and exhaled. VisionRT now allows the radiation therapist to confirm that the machine and patient are aligned during breathing, to an accuracy of just a few millimeters. The therapist can now very reproducibly instruct patients to hold their breath while the treatment is given to allow for precise administration of radiation.
“This technique, known as the deep-inspiration breath-hold technique, is extremely helpful in minimizing radiation exposure to healthy neighboring organs such as the heart, especially in left-sided breast cancer cases,” said Vernon. “The breath-hold lifts the breast upward away from the heart, so the exposure of the heart to radiation is minimized. I am excited our staff has completed this advanced training so we can begin utilizing some of these advanced techniques to maximize the capabilities of our technology, to the benefit of our patients.”
In addition to the VisionRT technology, the linac also includes Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT), an on-board imaging capability which further improves the accuracy of patient positioning and targeting of cancerous tissue. The Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) function allows the machine to rotate around the patient during treatment. This enables Vernon to treat a tumor continuously from multiple angles and has decreased treatment times from 20 minutes in the past to just 4 – 5 minutes now.
As explained by Vernon, “One of the keys to successfully deliver radiation therapy is being able to reproduce the precise positioning of the patient every single day; to ensure the treatment is safe and effective I have to assure it is directed at the right spot every time. Through a system of laser and camera arrays that visually monitor the position of the patient, VisionRT allows us to make very reproducible adjustments day-to-day and even during treatment.”
The linac delivers high doses of radiation to cancer cells in a much more precise and faster manner than allowed by previous technologies, which improves the patient experience through reduced treatment times, less side effects, and less damage to neighboring normal organs.
The unit and the renovation necessary to install it was completed in early 2016 at a cost of more than $4 million. A significant savings was realized through SVMC’s partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. The cost has been offset through philanthropic contributions.
Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is a comprehensive, preeminent health care system providing exceptional, convenient, and affordable care to the communities of Bennington and Windham Counties of Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties of New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts. SVHC’s providers are members of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians, a multispecialty medical group operated in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock. SVHC includes the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, a 150-bed long- and short-term care skilled nursing facility; the SVHC Foundation; and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), a 99-bed community hospital. SVMC’s services include an emergency department staffed by physicians each of whom is board certified in emergency medicine; the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, which is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and managed by Dartmouth-Hitchcock; and a fully-digital imaging department. SVMC also includes 19 primary and specialty care practices and primary care offices in Bennington, Manchester, Pownal, West Dover, and Wilmington, VT. The hospital is accredited by the Joint Commission and is the state’s first Magnet Center for Nursing Excellence, a designation it has held since 2002. To learn more, visit svhealthcare.org.
Southwestern Vermont Health Care complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. Language assistance services, free of charge, are available at 1-800-367-9559.