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Royal Columbian X-ray unit has super powers
William Siu is grinning as he shows off his new toy with its six video screens, a panel full of joysticks, and fancy-dancy cameras on a boom that can see inside people. It’s a big toy for big boys and girls like Dr. Siu, a neuro and interventional radiologist, and head of medical imaging at Royal Columbian. And it’s all part of the hospital’s new $5-million multipurpose interventional suite which was officially opened Tuesday.
“It’s very cool,” says Siu.
The suite has an X-ray machine with super powers of sorts. The bi-plane unit can continuously provide images to the surgeon or doctor from over top or underneath the patient, and from side-to-side at the same time—a virtual 3D video X-ray.
What they see on the screen lets doctors spot blood clots and aneurysms in patients that have either had a stroke or are suffering from heart trouble.
Doctors can run little metal filament coils through a catheter in the groin area to an aneurysm to permanently block off blood getting into it and bursting it. “It’s a bandage on the brain,” says Siu. Previously, doctors had to open the brain to put a clip on outside of the aneurysm, a procedure with much greater risk of causing brain damage.
Doctors can also use the imaging to help them direct clot-busting drugs through the catheter to the right spot to get rid of the block, or use a tool to grab the clot and remove it before it causes further damage.
Dr. Siu has already used the equipment to do just that for two patients who came in unable to speak and move one side of the body.
“If we can open up the artery fast enough patients can recover completely from paralysis,” says Siu.
Time is of the essence in these procedures. If the measures are done in the early hours of the stroke it can often mean somebody who went in with one side of their body paralyzed and unable to speak can leave with the devastating symptoms gone.
The equipment also allows doctors to eradicate cardiac trouble spots in patients by burning or freezing them.
Doctors at Royal Columbian have been able to do some of those procedures in the past, but the suite allows it to be done faster and with more accuracy.
“The procedures we are doing are more advanced with technology. There’s a whole batch of things in play now,” says Siu. “You need people with the skills, which we had, but the missing piece was the equipment.”
The “minimally invasive procedures” also help patients to avoid open surgery, which saves them from a long stay in hospital, which in turns saves the province money, and frees up much-needed bed space in RCH.
“It can alleviate the backlog in some of the other areas,” Siu says.
The cost of the suite was approximately $5 million, including $2.4 million for the imaging equipment. About $2.8 million was raised by the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation through its “Room with a View” campaign with the rest coming from Fraser Health. Vancouver General is the only other B.C. hospital with a similar suite.
Siu says Fraser Health waited until the technology and techniques were proven before going ahead with the suite. He noted, when studies were done by research hospitals to determine the effectiveness of the equipment and methods, it didn’t take long for them to stop doing open surgeries. That’s because the evidence was so clear the equipment produced a far superior outcome, says Siu.
His department is working with Fraser Health to coordinate identifying stroke victims who could benefit from the equipment early enough to be rerouted to Royal Columbian.