The Power of Imaging
Since the discovery of X-rays by German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895, medical imaging has been advancing our ability to diagnose complex medical problems. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center conducted more than 65,000 imaging studies last year, including ultrasounds, mammograms, CT (computed tomography) scans, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging), PET/CT (positron emission technology and computed tomography) nuclear medicine imaging, and X-Rays. Each one provided important answers doctors and patients needed to guide their care.
In honor of the 125th anniversary of the invention of the X-ray, I would like to share some of the most impressive aspects of imaging happening at local hospitals nationwide, including right here at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.
3D mammography, also called digital breast tomosynthesis, has quickly become an essential tool for the detection of breast cancer. Unlike the previous version, which took one picture, 3D mammography takes many images throughout the entire thickness of the breast. The new technology increases the numbers early breast cancers found and possibly reduces the need for repeat testing. It does so in about 20 seconds per side while keeping radiation exposure within FDA guidelines.
Just as advanced mammography has improved the detection of breast cancer, a painless non-invasive test using high-speed CT imaging technology measures the hardening of the heart’s arteries, a leading indicator of heart disease and heart attacks. The test, called calcium scoring, is helping people determine their risk of a heart-related event and make well-informed changes before potentially dangerous symptoms arise.
Dexa scans help measure bone density, an important aspect in determining risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. The technology works by directing low-energy X-ray beams towards the bones. It works better than typical X-rays, because it can detect even small changes to bone density. The test is painless and takes only about 30 minutes. It is especially helpful in determining if treatments for osteoporosis are working as expected.
With an extensive store of high-tech equipment, we are diagnosing conditions before symptoms arise and saving lives in ways our predecessors never could have imagined. And the advances keep on coming. New equipment and technologies will continue to increase our ability to see within the body and detect previously unseen medical issues.
Melissa Spiezio is the director of Imaging Services at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.