New radiology camera delivers sophisticated technology to Cambridge Medical Center patients

When most of us think of new cameras, we think about those little digital pocket-sized ones that easily fit into the palm of our hand. It’s amazing how much technology is contained in something so small.

But the ‘wow’ factor can also be found in big cameras that use state-of-the-art technology to take different kinds of pictures. Cambridge Medical Center recently installed an impressive new camera in its Radiology department. It’s a dual head gamma camera called the Siemens E-CAM.

The E-CAM is an extremely sensitive camera that detects the distribution of radioactivity in the body over seconds, hours, or days. It can be used to measure the function of most organs in the body including the heart, kidney, liver, gallbladder, and lungs. It can measure thyroid function, reveal blood clots in the lungs, and track blood flow to the heart or other organs. It can help explain previously unexplained bone and abdominal pain and identify the spread of cancer. It can also measure how the heart reacts to stress. Cardiac stress tests are being used more frequently as a non-invasive way to determine if there is a cardiac problem, especially with people who have multiple risk factors.

Patients appreciate that the E-CAM tests are relatively easy to undergo. “For most tests, patients can wear street clothes provided they don’t have metal on them. The camera is quiet and patients aren’t enclosed in a small space. It’s actually pretty comfortable,” said Nancy Post, Nuclear Medicine Technologist at Cambridge Medical Center.

The camera works by measuring the amount of radioactive material that is emitted from an area of the body being evaluated. Different types of radioactive compounds are given to patients depending upon what type of test is being conducted. The camera has a crystal that detects the radioactive material and takes a series of digital images of the organ being studied.

Although it sounds a little scary to receive radioactive material, the amount used is small and safe. “For 90 percent of the nuclear medicine exams we do, patients receive about the same amount of radiation they would receive in a standard chest x-ray. It’s really a very small amount and is usually out of the system within 24 hours,” said Post.

The information from the E-CAM is digitalized on a computer and printed on film and/or read ‘live’ on a computer by a radiologist or nuclear medicine physician.

Cambridge Medical Center has two full-time registered nuclear medicine technologists on staff who conduct the patient tests using the new camera. Radiology experts from Consulting Radiologists Ltd. (CRL) from Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis read and interpret all the nuclear medicine studies. Cardiac studies are immediately sent using digital technology to Abbott Northwestern to be read the same day by a team of nuclear medicine physicians and cardiologists.

“Our relationship with the CRL radiologists and the cardiologists at Abbott Northwestern Hospital means that Cambridge Medical Center patients are getting the same quality of exams and test interpretation here in Cambridge that they would receive at a larger metro hospital but without having to leave home. The digital technology also ensures that the image the physician is seeing in Minneapolis is every bit as clear as it would be if they were reading the test sitting here in Cambridge,” said Cheryl Bond-Fay, manager of Diagnostic Services at Cambridge Medical Center.

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