August 31, 2006

New CT Scanner Is a Lifesaver For Memphis Man

What a difference just a few days make. When William Garrett woke up Friday, August 18th at his Memphis home, he knew something wasn’t quite right. “Bud” sleeps with the aid of oxygen due to cardio-pulmonary issues caused by a faulty heart valve. But despite his nightly treatment, Bud was having trouble catching his breath that morning.

“My wife took one look at me and asked if we were taking the car to the hospital or if she needed to call an ambulance,” Bud said of wife Jean’s initial diagnosis.

Garrett actually drove himself and Jean to Scotland County Memorial Hospital.

In the emergency room the SCMH staff did the standard battery of tests, reviewing blood samples and checking for heart and lung problems such as pneumonia or a heart attack. The tests and x-rays revealed nothing abnormal.

Dr. Robert Jackson, SCMH’s internal medicine specialist, ordered a CT scan for Garrett in the hospital’s new state-of-the-art digital machine.

CT (computed tomography), often referred to as a CAT scan, is composed of special x-ray equipment used to create image data from a large variety of angles around a patient’s body. The CT computer then processes this information to reveal a cross-section of body tissues and organs.

The hospital’s new CT machine, which arrived and was installed the second week of August, is particularly useful because it can show several varieties of tissue, including lung, bone, soft tissue and blood vessels, all with excellent clarity.

The results of the SCMH CT scan on Bud Garrett were uploaded over the Internet to the Hannibal Imaging Group, a crew of radiologist specialists that interpret a wide variety of scans, x-rays and tests for regional physicians.

Within a matter of minutes the phone was ringing in the emergency room and Garrett was learning that he had a major problem. The CT scan had revealed an embolism, a large blood clot of the pulmonary artery. “The “saddle” which is the common name given to the disorder by physicians, was posing a huge threat to Garrett.

“Mr. Garrett, a known heart/lung patient came in with some issues,” Dr. Jackson said. “We determined there was no heart attack, no pneumonia, no bronchitis. There were just a few, subtle symptoms. Thanks to the new CT scan we were able to look for the blood clot. A few weeks ago we would have likely discharged Mr. Garrett. This was a remarkable find thanks to the new technology.”

Dr. Jackson was able to make the life-saving diagnosis and gave all the credit to the huge jump in technology made by SCMH when the administration and board of directors approved the capital expenditure for the new technology.

“I work in several other regional hospitals and none of them have this technology,” Jackson said. “I’m pretty certain there is now a patient who is very happy that the hospital invested in the new CT machine.”

Garrett was taken by ambulance to Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines.

“That was really the only thing that went wrong that day,” said Bud. “Everything else worked perfectly for me, but the weather was bad enough that they couldn’t fly me to Des Moines by helicopter.”

Bud spent the next week in a hospital in Des Moines on blood thinner treatments to eliminate the life-threatening disorder.

“Our lungs handle small blood clots, actually filtering them out of the system, but a large clot like this one blocks the flow of blood back to the heart and shuts down the entire system,” said Dr. Jackson.

A few weeks later Bud is still receiving medicine for the condition but is confident that he escaped the threat of a stroke or even death because of the “saddle.”

“I cannot say enough about what these folks here did for me,” Garrett said. “We don’t have a good hospital, we have a great hospital.”

Garrett’s life-saving diagnosis likely won’t be the last for the new CT scanner.

Dr. Jackson indicated that embolism conditions are more common than most realize. He stated that patients that have undergone surgery that required a lengthy period under anesthetic, any joint replacement surgeries, or any lengthy immobilization could be at danger of an embolism, just like people that deal with blood clots in their legs or even cancer patients.

“All these folks are at elevated risk,” said Dr. Jackson. “This condition can be like a time bomb.”

But now SCMH has the technology to diffuse such time bombs.

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