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Hospital unveils new technologies

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Heidi Ambrose, a patient care services director at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, discusses the hospital's new Brevara Breast Biopsy System, at the hospital, Friday.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, October 15, 2018

Sentara Albemarle Medical Center showed off a quartet of new technologies last week, highlighting new diagnostic and other tools for treating lung, heart and breast diseases and conditions.

The new devices will help the hospital better handle some of patients' most common conditions and procedures, said patient care services directors Glen Needham and Heidi Ambrose and other medical officials in an interview Friday afternoon.

Collectively, the devices represent hundreds of thousands of dollars in new investments, and should improve and speed up patients' care, hospital officials said.

One of the technologies is called endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) bronchoscopy. It uses a flexible tube to inspect the inside of a patient's lungs, explained Dr. Jasvinder Singh, a member of the hospital's medical staff, and Surgical Services Educator Margaret Deanes.

Bronchoscopies, like other endoscopies, typically employ a camera to examine a patient internally, but EBUS includes a small ultrasound scanner built into the tube. That allows doctors to more easily locate tumors, lymph nodes, or other tissues of concern, Singh said. CT and other scans might give doctors a rough idea of where to look, but the ultrasound keeps them from searching “blindly” when those tissues aren't visible on camera, he said.

That in turn allows more precise — and fewer — biopsies, allowing doctors to more quickly and confidently plan surgeries and other treatments, he continued. In cancer patients, EBUS can save patients from a surgery to examine and plan removal of tissues, he and Deanes added. 

Another new technology is called the Brevera Breast Biopsy System. Any woman undergoing a breast biopsy wants it over as quickly as possible, and Brevera biopsies help with that, Ambrose said. Previously, medical personnel had to take a few biopsies, image them in another room, and then come back potentially for more. That lengthens patients' discomfort, she said.

Brevera, then, puts the biopsy and imaging equipment in one computer cart, shortening the imaging delay between biopsies.

According to information from Brevera provided by Sentara Albemarle, Brevera reduces an eight-step biopsy process to just three, with tissue acquisition and imaging only taking eight seconds.

The process reduces biopsy times by an average of 10 minutes, according to Brevera.

Ambrose also said Sentara Albemarle is the first Sentara hospital to acquire the biopsy system, and it's part of a larger effort to improve breast care and treatment, including a plan to acquire a second 3D mammography machine.

CardioMEMS is a third new technology. It’s an approximately $40,000 sensor that heart failure patients take with them, Ambrose and Needham explained.

The sensor, smaller than a paperclip, is mounted on a patient’s pulmonary artery and allows daily collection — at home — of data on blood pressure and heart rate. Patients lie on a specialized pillow that collects and uploads their data to medical personnel.

Getting constant data from the patient allows the hospital to detect problems days or weeks before the patient may notice major symptoms, allowing sometimes simple but still lifesaving interventions.

Being able to monitor patients' data from anywhere is especially important in rural areas, ensuring distant patients learn early on when they need to return to the hospital.

According to information from hospital spokeswoman Annya Soucy, CardioMEMS “has been clinically proven to reduce hospital admissions by 33 percent over an average of 18 months.”

A fourth new technology at the hospital, PleurX is a simple device that means a great deal to terminally-ill lung patients, Singh said. It's a flexible catheter that can be inserted into the pleural space that cushions the lungs.

A small amount of fluid there is normal, but, in terminally-ill lung patients, large amounts of fluid may accumulate and limit their breathing.

The catheter connects to a small vacuum bottle and allows them to drain set amounts of fluid each day, he and Deanes explained. The patient and their family can also easily be taught how to perform the drainage, they added.

PleurX may not lengthen a terminally ill patient’s life, but it will make their final days more comfortable because they won't feel like they're suffocating, Singh explained.

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