Rady Children’s Hospital opens new imaging center that reduces radiation risk

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Born with a narrow heart valve, 5-year-old Liam Cordeo has spent much more time than most children in operating theaters. He arrived at Rady’s Children’s Hospital on Tuesday for his third minimally invasive procedure which involved threading a thin wire called a catheter through his veins to his heart, where his medical team investigated a small hole between the two chambers. lower parts of the vital organ.

For decades, cardiac catheterization has spared many the trauma of open heart surgery. But it still comes with risks, especially for children, as medical teams have to do their jobs using real-time x-ray imaging that allows them to see every millimeter of the critical path they need to take. inside the body of each patient. X-rays, however, are a form of ionizing radiation, and early life exposure has been shown to increase cancer risk in adulthood.

Tuesday’s experiment, although it made Liam cry, represented progress as he was the first to undergo such a procedure at the new $ 24 million Dickinson Image-Guided Response Center, which is equipped with the latest generation of low dose radiation technology, a godsend to those with so much life to live.

Although Rady was already known to minimize exposure, many were enthusiastic about doing better, and perhaps one day soon, performing more such procedures without any radiation while simultaneously seeing critical details. even more clearly.

“The goal is to achieve high resolution with as low radiation as possible,” said Dr. Howaida El-Said, director of Rady’s cardiac catheterization prior to Liam’s procedure.

The catheterization and magnetic resonance imaging suites at Rady Children’s Hospital’s new Dickinson Image Guided Intervention Center are connected, enabling research to support more MRI procedures that were historically only possible when guided by X-ray equipment.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Standing in the parents’ waiting room on the unit, Jennifer Cordeo, Liam’s mother, said that she and her son were referred to South Anaheim because Rady had a strong program to treat her specific illness. called aortic valve stenosis.

Liam becoming the first young patient to be treated on the new equipment, she said, felt like a blessing given the amount of medical treatment he has already undergone.

“I know you want to avoid exposing them as much as possible,” she said. “It’s exciting to see it getting better and easier for the kids. “

Built with the help of a $ 2 million pledge from the Donald C. & Elizabeth M. Dickinson Foundation, the center occupies the lower level of Rady’s Acute Care Pavilion. It is one of a growing number of medical centers in the United States with a heavy duty door connecting an X-ray catheterization room with an adjacent space dedicated to magnetic resonance imaging.

Traditionally, minimally invasive operations such as reopening blocked blood vessels with stents or balloons, replacing heart valves, and repairing strained blood vessels have been the domain of x-rays. This is because strong magnetic fields and the radio waves that run MRI scans also tend to heat metals, even those that are not attracted to magnets, which is a break for medical technology literally being inserted into a person’s blood vessels.

John Boyer, 6, from Kensington is hiding under his mother, Cortney Golub's jacket

John Boyer, 6, of Kensington is hiding under his mother, Cortney Golub’s jacket set to become one of the first pediatric patients to undergo a diagnostic MRI procedure at the brand new intervention center guided by the image Dickinson at Rady Children’s Hospital on November 11. 9, 2021.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

But researchers, including Dr. Sanjeet Hedge, medical director of Rady’s cardiac MRI, have gradually resolved these issues. Using non-ferrous metals is helping to solve the magnetism problem, and work is also underway, Hedge said, to combat the heating induced by radio waves.

Already, plastic catheters can be used in MRI machines to perform basic diagnostics inside the heart, and Hedge said the new machine will be used in that capacity soon, likely in a few months. By designing the new imaging center to allow the safe use of catheter equipment in the MRI room, Rady is now one of a handful of medical centers across the country ready to participate in research that will expand the range of tools available for medical intervention, says Hedge.

“This opens up a huge area of ​​research, and for that we are very excited and very grateful,” Hedge said.

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