Middle Georgia hospitals use latest technology to better treat, diagnose patients

This CT machine is used for low dose lung screening at Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins.
This CT machine is used for low dose lung screening at Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins. Special to The Telegraph

Thanks to innovative doctors and other healthcare professionals in local hospitals, Middle Georgians have plenty of options for the early detection of many diseases, which is often the key to survival.

At the Medical Center, Navicent Health (MCNH), Dr. Joel Judah, gastroenterologist/advanced endoscopist with Navicent Health Physician Group, pioneered a new procedure to evaluate a pancreas cyst for potential cancer using the WATS3D Biopsy brush platform.

Judah had been using WATS3D with success in diagnosing Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous change in the lining of the esophagus, and decided to use the same approach on a pancreas cyst, he said in an email.

According to a news release, “The WATS3D platform provides computer-assisted three-dimensional analysis of tissue, allowing physicians at MCNH to better evaluate for the presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells. A brush gently removes cells that could potentially lead to cancer, and the brush containing the cells is then sent for laboratory analysis.”

The first physician in the US to use the procedure, Judah felt that the brushing technique “would give access to a greater surface area” of a pancreas cyst, thus increasing the odds of finding and diagnosing cancer.

“Pancreas cancer is so deadly that it must be found early in order to allow a chance of cure. If I can increase the odds of early detection of even small microscopic foci of cancer in a cyst, then we have done the patient a real service. We can literally change their situation from one of dealing with a terminal cancer to one where they have a totally curable cancer,” he said.

In addition to WATS3D, doctors at MCNH are now using CellVizio, which “allows the physician to instantly view internal tissues at the microscopic level” in standard endoscopies, thereby finding cellular abnormalities in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, according to the release.

CellVizio is also being used at Coliseum Northside Hospital, part of Coliseum Health System, vice president of marketing Robin Parker said.

“It helps identify pre-cancerous and cancerous cells in patients with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), or acid reflux. Acid reflux can cause Barrett’s Esophagus, which can lead to cancer,” she said, adding that acid reflux is also now being treated at the hospital with Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication, or TIF, an incisionless surgical procedure that corrects the root cause of acid reflux, which is an anatomic defect.

Coliseum Northside Hospital also has introduced Stryker Spine Navigation Surgery to Middle Georgia, and is the only hospital south of Atlanta to offer this technology.

“The device is placed on the back of the patient and an x-ray-like photo is taken. This photo helps guide the surgeon to know precisely where to make adjustments in the patient’s spine and makes it possible for no errors to occur,” according to a news release. By using Stryker’s software, a surgeon is able to be much more precise in positioning instruments and implants.

At Coliseum Medical Centers, the other hospital of the Coliseum Health System, Dr. Michael Dillon, gynecologic oncologist, used new Firefly Fluorescence Imaging technology for the first time in Middle Georgia in a “procedure involving a robotic, laparoscopic hysterectomy to treat endometrial cancer,” according to a news release.

This year, the Robotics Institute at Coliseum Medical Centers completed the 2,000th successful procedure using the DaVinci robot, which allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive robotic procedures, including gallbladder removals and hysterectomies.

And both hospitals now offer “telestroke robots, allowing patients to have an immediate neurological assessment with a neurologist, providing faster care to the patient,” according to the release.

“We started using telestroke in the fall of last year and it has been used a lot this year,” Parker said. “For people who present in the ER with stroke symptoms, we are able to have a neurologist on call at all times, and the quicker the treatment, the better for stroke patients. I truly believe this is the start of what will be the future for hospitals in rural communities.”

At Houston Healthcare, made up of Houston Medical Center, Perry Hospital and Houston Health Pavilion, the automated breast volume scanner (ABVS) is being used for 3D breast ultrasound imaging.

“It is used for whole breast volume scans that are indicated for patients who have dense breast tissue and are, therefore, at a higher risk for cancer because that dense tissue is hard to see through. About 50 percent of the population has dense breast tissue, and we can use these scans to identify cancers that would normally have been missed on regular scans,” said Tim Sisco, director of cardiovascular and imaging services.

All of the scans used in breast imaging at the hospitals have been accredited by the American College of Radiology, as are low dosage radiation technologies being used in CT and MRI machines.

“Historically, a CT scan in one area gives a high dose of radiation to a patient; the low dose scan has a 40 percent to 60 percent less dose than a regular scan,” Sisco said, adding that the image quality is equal to or better than a regular scan.

The low dose scan is used frequently to detect lung cancer in longtime smokers, who may qualify for a reduced-cost scan.

“If a person is diagnosed in the early stages, lung cancer can be very treatable, but if you wait until you have symptoms, the cancer is in its later stages, usually stage four, and the outcomes are not as good,” Sisco said. “It is really the best test for diagnosing lung cancer early.”

Another component of the CT scans is a computer-aided diagnostic that can assist the radiologist in measuring the size and growth of lung nodules, which helps to determine if the nodule is cancerous, Sisco said.

Lung screenings are just one of the special screenings given to veterans at the Medical Center of Peach County (MCPC), Navicent Health, in Byron. Beginning in 2014, MCPC clinicians have welcomed veterans monthly for checks of vision, hearing, glucose, skin cancer and more. Only about 10 veterans a month have been taking advantage of the services, but all veterans are welcome, regardless of where they live.

The special screenings are one of the many ways local hospitals are working to keep Middle Georgians healthy with the latest technology available.

Middle Georgia hospitals

Rehabilitation Hospital, Navicent Health: 3351 Northside Drive, Macon, 478-201-6500, www.navicenthealth.org

The Medical Center, Navicent Health: 777 Hemlock St., Macon, 478-633-1000, www.navicenthealth.org

The Children’s Hospital, Navicent Health: 777 Hemlock St., 478-633-1000, www.navicenthealth.org

Coliseum Northside Hospital: 400 Charter Blvd., Macon, 478-757-8200, www.coliseumhealthsystem.com

Coliseum Medical Centers: 350 Hospital Drive, Macon, 478-765-7000, www.coliseumhealthsystem.com

Coliseum Center for Behavioral Health: 340 Hospital Drive, Macon, 478-741-1355, www.coliseumhealthsystem.com

Houston Medical Center: 1601 Watson Blvd., Warner Robins, 478-922-4281, www.hhc.org

Perry Hospital: 1120 Morningside Drive, Perry, 478-987-3600, www.hhc.org

Monroe County Hospital: 88 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Forsyth, 478-994-2521, www.monroehospital.org

The Medical Center of Peach County, Navicent Health: 1960 Ga. 247 Connector, Byron, 478-654-2000, www.navicenthealth.org

Regency Hospital of Central Georgia (an acute long-term care hospital): 535 Coliseum Drive, Macon, 478-803-7300, www.regencyhospital.com

Oconee Regional Medical Center: 821 N. Cobb St., Milledgeville, 478-454-3505, www.oconeeregional.com