Club hears of cutting edge health scanning
Morpeth Rotary Club
Radiographer Clare Moody delayed setting off to take up a new and exciting job in London so she could tell Morpeth Rotary Club about her interesting and varied work. She talked about her job as a Senior Research Radiographer with Newcastle NHS Trust.
She had been interested in science from the age of 16 or 17 and was able to have a week of work experience in the x-ray department of her local hospital in North Lincolnshire.
She went to Leeds University and was awarded a BSc Honours degree. She met her future husband there, who was from the North East of England.
She did some work in A&E and in a normal hospital x-ray department before she got a job in the North East as a research radiographer.
The work was to carry out different types of CT scans, work with ultrasound and to plan x-rays. CT stands for Computerised Tomography, where x-rays and a computer are combined to create detailed images of the inside of the human body.
She is well qualified and has done postgraduate courses in CT scanning at Sheffield University, Radio Pharmacy at London and Nuclear Medicine at Salford.
Various types of nuclear trace chemical can be injected into a patient to enable a CT scan to see exactly where in the body a cancer is. Whole body scans are called PET (Positron Emissions Tomography). They are used for checks such as for residual cancer cells that may remain after treatment, or where a main cancer has been found and secondary cancers are being searched for. Liquid radiation can show an active cancer as a brighter area on a scan. It can guide doctors to exactly the right place to find the tissue for a biopsy.
The scanner used is owned by the university as the NHS can’t afford one. Patients are taken in to use it and it is used by the haematology department at the RVI and the Bobby Robson Unit of the Freeman Hospital. There are arrangements for a private medical company to have access, for which the NHS is able to charge £1,500 per session.
The equipment has an important role in clinical research. It is used by the RVI to study new and possibly better treatments and how they compare with standard practice. It led to an advance in the treatment of breast cancer where a new approach is now standard. One of the RVI’s latest projects is a study to identify who is likely to get osteoarthritis in future.
A new type of scanner is coming into use, which combines PET whole body scans and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) using strong magnetic fields and radio waves.
Newcastle is one of three locations in the UK. This sort of scan can provide a detailed picture of what is happening in the brain, arteries and lymph nodes. They looked at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospitals in London to see how it was set up two years ago and used the information at Newcastle.
Normal chemotherapy is not very exact, and while it can work very well for some patients, it may do harm to others. The new approach allows for the specific targeting of the cancer cells in an individual.
Clinical trials patients are brought into hospital every two weeks for checks, which is more often than the NHS normal service. The research project pays for taxis to bring them in and they can arrange to be dropped off at bingo on the way back.
The equipment can be used to research many different types of medical condition. Another project was to examine a new type of knee replacement joint. It was put into 20 human legs from bodies given to science and then checked after two weeks to see if the new joint changed the alignment of the leg tissues.
The equipment has been used to trial a much faster diagnosis for patients who might have Alzheimer’s.
The worst form of the disease comes from a build up of protein plaque in the brain, which damages the neurons and affects the memory. For the trial, a radio chemical was injected into the patient’s arm. Half an hour later a scan was made to see if it had been taken into the patient’s brain plaque. If so it was likely to be Alzheimer’s, if not Alzheimer’s can be ruled out. It can take six to seven years to diagnose Alzheimer’s by other means.
There are dangers linked to the equipment and some unfortunate accidents have been reported from other countries.
An MRI scanner is like a giant magnet. Everything metal is affected so special wheelchairs and patients’ beds have to be used to bring patients in. There have been cases of heavy hospital beds being picked up, hovering in mid air, and then being sucked into the MRI scanner at speed.
If, by some oversight, a patient is brought in attached to an oxygen cylinder, it is likely to be whisked off like a torpedo as they come through the door. Pacemakers and watches that come near are stopped and bank cards are wiped of data.
There are not enough scanners or radiographers to run them and there is always a waiting list.
The vote of thanks was given by the speaker’s father–in-law, Rotary member Alan Moody, of Moody Logistics. The club wished her well for her new job in London.
Rotary President Paul Crook reported that a pupil from Chantry Middle School had won the Junior Section of the Rotary Young Writers North East of England District competition and he would go forward to the national final. A young lady from the same school came second in the intermediate section.