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The Speed of Technology

As a citizen of the 21st century, you may find it hard to remember how you ever survived without a cell phone or the Internet, what it was like to watch sports on analog TV, or how you ever reached your destination without a GPS navigation system in your car.

Consumer gadgets are constantly evolving to make life easier and better, but the right choices aren't always clear. (Consider the fabled product wars between VHS and Betamax, Microsoft and Apple.) The same holds true with advanced medical technologies. Except it's the Hospital's responsibility to separate hype from fact and to make wise investments that offer long-term value for patients.

"We are constantly looking two or three years ahead to evaluate the viability of new technologies in the pipeline," says Russell E. McWey, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer. "Staying one step ahead of the curve means you really have to upgrade every three to four years." (For a snapshot of the Hospital's most recent high-tech acquisitions, see grid below.)

Just as technology has revolutionized how we live, work, shop and play, it has also dramatically changed how Virginia Hospital Center fights illness. Ten years ago a radiologist's report had to be dictated, transcribed, and then mailed or faxed (taking 3-4 days), whereas today's reports are available instantly, thanks to voice recognition software and an electronic patient records database, notes Dr. McWey. As a result, diagnoses and treatment decisions are made much faster. "Now a referring physician can log in and view the report sometimes even before the patient reaches his or her car in the parking lot," he says.

Technology is making the diagnostic process faster and more accurate for patients, he says. With digital mammography, image capture is instantaneous and there are fewer call-backs for repeat studies. CT scans once took 45 minutes to capture 12-15 two-dimensional "slices" of the body. The Hospital's new scanner captures 128 slices in 10 seconds, using the results to build 3-D models of the body's internal structures. "With 3-D modeling, we can electronically 'dissect' a part of the body requiring further investigation. If we want to see what's going on inside the hip, the computer can remove all the muscles to provide a clearer picture of just the bone," Dr. McWey explains. "Instead of just seeing that there is a fracture in the femur, we might see that it's broken in eight places, ensuring better placement of screws in a hip replacement."

Technologies at Virgina Hospital Center







Delivers high-dose radiation to tumors in the brain, spine, lung, liver, pancreas & prostate.

Patients with tumors in hard-to-reach or delicate locations.

Destroys tumors without harming adjacent healthy tissue. Painless & noninvasive. Minimal to no side effects. Shorter treatment schedule.

$5 million


Imaging system for spinal surgery that provides 360-degree, 3-D scans of patient anatomy

Patients undergoing surgery for degenerated discs, spinal stenosis,spinal tumors & scoliosis.

Allows surgeons to check accuracy of procedures before patients leave the operating room. Faster recovery & better outcomes.


Digital Mammography

Screening for breast cancer.

Women over 40 years, or younger if they have a family history of breast cancer or previous diagnosis.

Superior image quality. Improved detection of early cancer in women with dense breasts & women under 50.

$1.5 million

Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Detects breast cancer.

High-risk patients due to family history or previous breast cancer.Patients requiring further investigation of breast abnormalities detected by mammogram.

Detailed imaging can detect early growths or early tumors that may not be picked up by first-line mammograms, particularly in women with dense breasts.


SOMATOM® Definition CT Scanner

Captures crystal-clear images of a beating heart to pinpoint signs of heart disease.

Patients at risk for coronary illness despite normal stress test & other results. As follow-up for patients with bypass grafts or stents who have recurrent symptoms.

Detects hidden signs of heart disease. Superior diagnosis in patients with rapid or irregular heart beats; 50% lower radiation. Extremely fast diagnosis (minutes) critical for emergency cases.

$1.5 million

Endoscopic Ultrasound

Uses endoscopy combined with ultrasound to provide images of the digestive tract & surrounding organs.

Patients with suspected tumors in the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, duodenum & rectum.

Minimally invasive procedure. Superior accuracy. Can determine exact size & stage of tumor.


da Vinci® S Robot

Robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery.

Patients with prostate, adrenal, bladder & kidney cancer. Soon to be used for hysterectomy & pelvic floor reconstruction.

Less invasive procedure, resulting in decreased pain & blood loss, a smaller scar & faster recovery.

$1.6 million

Cardiac Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation

Expanding treatment for atrial fibrillation with catheter-based radiofrequency energy (heat), cryotherapy (freezing) and laser energy (light).

Patients with symptomatic atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias despite medical therapy.

Minimally invasive. Can eliminate the need for drug therapy.


Technologies at Virginia Haospital Center
CyberKnife® O-arm™ Digital Mammography Breast MRI SOMATOM® Definition CT Scanner Endoscopic Ultrasound da Vinci® S Robot Cardiac Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation

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