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Feb 7, 2013

Healthy Living zooms in on medical imaging

The advancement of technology with new smart phones and tablets has significantly impacted on our lives specifically in carrying out our day to day routines. This rapid technological development has not been exclusive to our personal devices. In fact, with new developments in medical technology, the machinery and information obtained from diagnostic tools have become far more detailed and accurate.  This week on Healthy Living we talk with one Belizean radiologist to find out just how far we have come in Belize with our medical imaging.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Some medical conditions can be confirmed by assessing physical signs and symptoms. When the problem lies somewhere within the body, medical imaging is normally used to get a clearer picture for a diagnosis. Medical or diagnostic imaging is a non invasive study of the inside of the body. There are various machines and techniques that can be used; some of the more widely known imaging are x-rays, ultra sounds, mammograms, CT and MRI Scans.


Virginia Smith

Dr. Virginia Smith, Radiologist

“Clinicians consult with radiologists on many occasions when they’ve done physical examination, after they have done their lab works. They cannot come up with diagnostic that is close enough to decide what treatment they should take. In those cases they will request first an x-ray then move on to an ultrasound or they might even ask for a CT scan.”


Doctor Virginia Smith is a Belizean Radiologist at Belize Healthcare Partners Limited. She first started working within Belize’s Health Sector in the early nineties.


Dr. Virginia Smith

“From what I have observed, Belize has progressed considerably. Then there was only x-ray available. If you couldn’t decide what your patient had; there was only one private institution on Albert Street that offered ultrasound, the only place in the country that offered ultrasound. So if your patient needed any further assistance to decide what he or she had? Then we would come up with the money and send the patient off to that institution and combine that with the ultra sound we had to decide what we would do with the patient.”


In the late nineties the first CT scanner was introduced in Belize. The Computerized Tomography or CT scan is a tool that produces cross-sectional images obtained my multiple X-rays that scan the body.


Dr. Virginia Smith

“I started working in 1994 and we only had this kind of image. This is an x-ray and that is an x-ray that s an x-ray. These images are really just a composition that results from x-ray passing through your body, your different tissues. They have different density so they reflect shadows on a film in different manner. So really they are a compilation of superimposed tissues one on top of the next that produces this one dimensional image view of the different body parts.”


But compare the traditional x-ray to the CT scan and the difference in details is obvious.


Dr. Virginia Smith

“Starting from the skin, below the skin we have fatty tissues; you cannot define each one of those structures; see the spine, see the gas in your colons reflected adequately. But you cannot define the organs, abdominal cavity. With the CT multiple x-rays that are sent into your body that when they are put together creates a cross-sectional image; the muscle, the liver, the intestine with contrast inside it. We don’t miss anything when we do a CT scan; everything shows up.”


With improvements in technology; modern CT’s like the one demonstrated here, can provide 3D images and in color which makes it easier to differentiate between tissue and other body structures.


Dr. Virginia Smith

“A CT Scanner, a gantry, a motorized table; when the scanning actually occurs, what happens is that there is an extra tube much like an x-ray tube the difference is that they are detectors corresponding channels capture all that and put it together to produce a volume of data and images.”


What about accuracy? It’s a common and real fear that patients have. According to Doctor Smith, with improvements in the medical equipment the risk for misdiagnosis has lessened.


Dr. Virginia Smith

“Nothing in medicine is one hundred percent sure with the advent of these last scanners. We are able to take finer slices, x-ray beam is focused much thinner than it was before. Let’s say I’m looking for a very small tumor, I’m scanning your body and each slice is point six of a millimeter that is a great volume of data that I am getting back. Logically if certainly diminishes, require some other type of study.”


Doctor Smith says it’s not uncommon for three or four to as many as seven CT’s requested per day. A CT Scan use to take as much as twenty minutes; that has now been reduced to thirty seconds or less.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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