Monday, March 21, 2011

Science is cool: PET and MRI scans

So, just been idly surfing around doing important internet research, and reading all about MRI and PET scans, which I will be having next week, (...should we succeed in appeasing the capricious socialized medicine bureaucracy kami ...) and it is tremendously interesting.

I have been strictly forbidden by my team of bullies caregiving friends to read anything about cervical cancer, recurrence rates, survival rates or look at any scary pictures on Google Images (tends to make me freak out/have panic attacks/phone people in tears at three am... which I'm told is very annoying), but I have been reading all about MRI and PET technology.

Did you know that a PET involves you emitting gamma rays? Yeah! No kidding.

...a radiotracer is either injected into a vein, swallowed or inhaled as a gas and eventually accumulates in the organ or area of your body being examined, where it gives off energy in the form of gamma rays [Coo-Whul!]. This energy is detected by a device called a gamma camera, a (positron emission tomography) PET scanner and/or probe. These devices work together with a computer to measure the amount of radiotracer absorbed by your body and to produce special pictures offering details on both the structure and function of organs and tissues.

In some centers, nuclear medicine images can be superimposed with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce special views, a practice known as image fusion or co-registration. These views allow the information from two different studies to be correlated and interpreted on one image, leading to more precise information and accurate diagnoses. In addition, manufacturers are now making single photon emission computed tomography/computed tomography (SPECT/CT) and positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) units that are able to perform both imaging studies at the same time.

I don't know about you, but I'm still back there with "gamma rays" And yes, I thought exactly what you're thinking. "Hulk SMASH!"

Also, I see from around the medical net that people tend to do what I have been forbidden to do, and use the info online to diagnose themselves (or, according to my own more nuanced version, work themselves up into a screaming panic attack). This note was appended to the image I have linked to above:

"Note: Images are shown for illustrative purposes. Do not attempt to draw conclusions or make diagnoses by comparing these images to other medical images, particularly your own. Only qualified physicians should interpret images; the radiologist is the physician expert trained in medical imaging."

But really! a machine that reads your insides, down to the cellular level, by making you emit photons...

Science: it's really just AMAY-ZINGly cool!

BTW: want to know some statistics on MRIs? It will make good fuel for argument about that whole socialist medicine thing.

Number of MRI machines in Canada as of 2008: 222 (a increase of 28% since 2003)
Number per million Canadians: 6
Number of MRIs per million recommended by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): 7

Italy ("two-tier" optional user-pay system) was in the top five in 2005 with 15 machines per million people, after Japan (40.1), US (26.6), Iceland (20.3) and Austria (16.3). Canada was 16th on the list with 6.1 and the UK was 18th with 5.4. A report compiled by the Canadian health department explained the disparity of MRI availability between countries thus:

A wide range of factors may explain the variations in the international supply pattern of medical imaging services and technologies. In the case of Japan, for example, the high rate of MRIs per million population (40.1) has been partly attributed to the market situation of the medical engineering industry, as well as socio-cultural factors such as a bias toward new technologies.

Does that mean that Canada's medical community has a bias against new technologies, or just that their government is incompetent and can't figure out that more MRIs (and consequently shorter wait lists) mean more people surviving things like cancer? Just askin'.

Furthermore, decisions by individual countries about which types of imaging technology to invest in, and how many machines to acquire, may depend on a variety of domestic factors, including the state of the assessment of the appropriateness of a particular technology’s use in different clinical situations and environments.
Because under socialist medicine, it's not the doctor that decides whether a particular diagnostic tool is "appropriate," it's the state.

Number of computed tomography (CT) scans per 1000
Canada: 103 (2007)
US: 207
Belgium: 138
England: 54
Denmark: 34

Number of MRI scans Canada: 31/1000
Number in US: 88.9/1000



Gary said...

From personal experience, Xanax is good for anxiety/panic attacks.

Your courage and good humor through all of this is inspiring.

Robert said...

Yeah. What Gary said. (Both about the Xanax and about courage.)

I've just sent a Mass stipend to a local Latin Mass priest, and have asked him if he could please offer a Mass for you.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the panic attacks and 3:00 am phone calls. They come with the territory. Been there, done that. Ativan is also very effective.

I found myself saying lots of "Hail Marys". I don't usually say the rosary much, but I they were very comforting. I'll say a rosary for you tonight.


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Don't do drugs.

Ever. For anything.


And the next person to ladle on any more comments about my courage will meet the Smite button.

Ingemar said...

Hilary I'm a scientist and I am not so enthusiastic about the amazingness of science.

Sure there are all the cures, but then there are all the new ways to kill people (nukes, oral abortifacients).

There's also a lot of tedium that goes behind every scientific discovery. I'm currently in the middle of such tedium.

And then we have ghouls like Peter Singer.

Nevertheless I'll say a prayer for you when coming before Christ and His Mother. (caveat: I am one of those Eastern schismatics).

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...



Anonymous said...

The thing about MRI machines and the like in the US is that hospitals will buy them, and then put out word to the doctors that enough tests had better be done to pay for the machines, and they are, "we just need to make sure nothing's wrong, you see." Those not in the know would marvel at how nicely demand catches up to supply when another machine is bought.

With MRIs, this doesn't seem to be too big a biggie, though, truth be told, no one really knows that its side-effects are. CT scans, however, are not as benign. As for how useful x-rays and the like are; although the establishment adamantly refuses to use it, infra-red (warmth) imaging of breasts catches growths much earlier and much more thoroughly than annual mammographies, for much less money, and without irradiating the patients.

If Canada is plodding, lethargic, and cautious, the US is hasty, overzealous, and not as much concerned about healing the patients as about billing them.


Gary said...

"Don't do drugs.

Ever. For anything.


Even if they're prescribed for a specified medical condition? That's the only way I would ever take them.

I won't make any more comments about "courage" etc.
Don't wish to be smited. Or is it "smote"? Either way, it doesn't sound like much fun.

HJW said...

About 12 years ago, a team of professional, highly trained doctors damn near killed me with their wanton, and frankly negligent, chucking around of drugs, Ativan included.

Been there; never going back.

Deep breaths. Green vegetables. Exercise. No drugs. It's a rule.

Anonymous said...

Vegetables, deep breaths and exercise sound very sensible, and much healthier. Everyone is different, and of course, you know what's right for you. Certainly ativan and other Rx's are not good for everyone. In my case, in the days while I was waiting for surgery and a prognosis, I got into a state of anxiety where I couldn't sleep or keep food down. Ativan was prescribed on a temporary basis, and I was then able to build up my strength.

One thing I realized, is that everyone who goes through an illness does it in their own way, there is no "one size fits all". Another thing I learned is that people will chip in with well-meaning advice, and it's not always welcomed. And there, I went ahead gave advice myself, when I really know better. Sorry for that, and once again, God bless.