New 3D heart ultrasound making difference at RIH

By Chad Klassen
March 24, 2016 - 5:31pm

KAMLOOPS — A new three-dimensional heart ultrasound machine at Royal Inland Hospital is giving patients in Kamloops easier and more comprehensive access to care in the cardiology department.

The machine, costing $200,000, is one of the first in Canada, purchased months ago by a generous donor.  

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"This was number one on the list, a brand-new ultrasound," says Heidi Coleman from the RIH Foundation. "General Electric just put these out, and for a while there we had the first one in Canada. It's a three-dimensional ultrasound."

For patients receiving a heart ultrasound, the procedure is much the same as it's been for many years, initially seen through 2D images. 

But looking at the heart in 3D gives doctors and sonographers a closer look at what is going on and may be able to better detect any abnormalities. 

"It's easier to perceive the problem, because it's hard to put together a number of two-dimensional pictures in your mind to know what that's going to look like in 3D," says RIH sonographer Norm Hevenor, who helps transform the 2D images into the three-dimensional world.

Patients needing heart surgery will have the 3D images sent to a surgeon, who then gets a sense of what they're dealing with. That couldn't happen before this new machine. 

"Many patients that are considered candidates for heart surgery will require a echo cardiogram before the surgeon is able to see them, so this is a very useful tool for those patients that will be referred to a cardiovascular surgeons in Kelowna. Previously, because of our long wait lists, we weren't always able to accomodate these types of patients," says cardiologist Dr. James Bilbey.

With the new machine, RIH can now see more cardiac patients locally.

"We have a huge demand for echocardiograhy at our hospital. Currently, we are doing 5,000 cases a year, and in spite of that, we have a 12-month waiting list. There's a big demand for this service. With the new machine, we will able to do 2,500 more cases a year," says Dr. Bilbey.

The RIH Hospital Foundation is eyeing to get another such machine in the hope of recruiting more cardiologists and expanding the cardiology department. 

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