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Guelph General Hospital to add nuclear imaging

Samir PatelGUELPH, Ont. – Guelph General Hospital plans to improve its on-site diagnosis of disease with the addition of nuclear medicine imaging this November. The acute-care hospital is the only one of its size in the province to still be without such imaging technology, but once it is up and running it will be among the best in Canada, said Dr. Samir Patel (pictured), chief of diagnostic imaging.

“It’s improved technology, which has benefits moreso than existing ones,” Dr. Patel told the Guelph Mercury. “From the patient perspective, this will make a big difference.”

Once implemented, patients will no longer have to go outside the hospital to another hospital or to a private facility for such advanced imaging to catch afflictions and assess their progress and treatment.

While advanced in technology, nuclear medicine imaging is relatively easy to grasp. It uses radiopharmaceuticals to probe the function and structure of organs and tissues in the body.

Tiny amounts of the material – medical isotopes from nuclear facilities – are temporarily introduced into the body, so radioactive parts can be detected in tissues and organs through a gamma camera, or positron emission tomography. A connected computer turns the results into images radiologists can decipher for insights into medical anomalies such as cancerous tumours.

Michael Sharma, Guelph General Hospital’s director of diagnostic imaging, said the hospital’s system goes beyond the typical gamma camera to a state-of-the-art SPECT-CT gamma camera not available elsewhere. It fuses images from two types of scans to provide the most precise, clear picture, so medical problems can be pinpointed. SPECT stands for single photon emission computed tomography.

While the term “nuclear medicine” may give some people pause, Sharma said the technology is safe. The radioactive material entering into a patient is a minute amount and remains in the body only a short time. It has a half-life of about six hours before the body excretes it.

The new system will cost about $1.2 million for construction and installation, with money coming from the hospital foundation’s fundraising efforts and the hospital’s budget. The lion’s share is coming from a private donor, whose name is to be announced shortly.

Slated to open by late November, the project requires renovating a portion of the hospital’s third-floor diagnostic imaging department. Three rooms there are to be converted to two larger ones, with the new nuclear medicine imaging component taking up one of those rooms.

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