Steamboat Springs A tour of Yampa Valley Medical Center's radiology department provides a lesson in medical technology and the capacity of modern medicine.
"A lot of brains have gone into this," Dr. Frederick Jones said of the department's capabilities.
The radiology staff is made up of two doctors -- Jones and Dr. J. Dave Gilliland -- and specialized technicians who have been trained to operate the extensive collection of machinery in the department.
"There's a lot of technical training that goes into this," Jones said.
The radiology department is largely diagnostic, Jones said, and does not offer many therapeutic services. But the range of diagnoses needed at the hospital each day keeps the radiology staff busy. Staff is available for emergency needs 24 hours a day.
Jones said that the radiologists don't just work for the patients, but the general practice physicians as well. Because of the complicated nature of radiology and all of its uses, most tests are not run on a patient unless ordered by a physician.
Diagnostic imaging generated by CT scans, ultrasounds, MRI scans and X-rays is used to see organs, bones, and tissue underneath the skin, and to locate disease or abnormalities, among other things.
"We're trying to diagnose disease," Jones explained.
CT scanners are often used for trauma victims, Jones said, to locate internal injuries. It can also be used to locate tumors, cancerous or benign.
"(The CT scanner) is probably our best all-around piece of equipment," Jones said. The images from the CT scanner are produced in slices, which allow radiologists to compose a virtual 3-D representation of the body part that has been scanned.
Besides basic X-ray machines, the department also has two fluoroscopy X-rays. These machines can generate real-time images of the X-rayed area on a computer screen. These machines are often used in surgery, Jones said.
"We can see what we're doing while we're doing it," he said.
Mammography services involve flattening the breast between two surfaces in the mammography machine to allow doctors to better detect any abnormalities. This keeps the breast still, spreads out the tissue so there is less scattering of the rays, and also exposes the breast to less radiation, Jones said.
A computer helps locate abnormalities. Although CAD often identifies areas that turn out not to be problematic, Jones said the added screening is useful.
"In a sense it's a second set of eyes," he said. "Mammography is very difficult."
The FDA has approved the CAD technology only within the last two years, Jones said.
"We're up with the technology. Not all places have it," he said.
Jones pointed out that all of the equipment in the YVMC radiology department is up to date, and capable of the latest services available.
"For the most part, we have what you'd see in a big city," he said.
Since the radiology services offered at YVMC are mostly diagnostic, Jones said that there is no threat posed by radiation from the machinery. He said diagnostic radiology uses mostly low doses of radiation, unlike oncological radiology, which is not offered at YVMC.
The fear of radiation is often a concern for patients, Jones said. But the evolution of medical technology has allowed for reduced exposure, he explained.
Radiology, which began in the 1890s, has come full circle in providing internal images and successfully locating disease, Jones said.
In 2002, the YVMC radiology department performed more than 3,200 CT scans, more than 1,500 MRI scans, nearly 2,000 mammographies, and 14,566 other procedures.