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Medical imaging

Olympics will make use of new, advanced imaging

VANCOUVER – The use of medical imaging technologies has increased steadily at recent Olympic games, and the trend is expected to continue at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in February.

However, a unique twist will be added, as physicians will for the first time provide point-of-care ultrasound imaging using hand-carried ultrasound units. The systems are being supplied by GE Healthcare, which is an official partner for many services to the Vancouver Olympics.

For point-of-care imaging, there will also be rinkside X-ray centres in Canada Hockey Place and UBC to image players between periods or after games, along with the portable ultrasound machines at sites including Cypress Mountain, the Richmond oval, Canada Hockey Place and Whistler Olympic Park.

GE Healthcare will be providing an innovative Mobile Medical Unit (pictured), in which advanced medical technologies have been fitted into a tractor-trailer. The 15.9-metre tractor-trailer can expand to a 90 square metre unit with 12 beds, which includes a recovery/triage area and intensive care unit, as well as an operating room with two independent surgical beds. A support trailer will also be stocked with 72 hours worth of surgical supplies and other equipment.

Overall, radiologists expect they will perform an estimated 900 diagnostic imaging exam on athletes and officials during the upcoming winter games. That’s a 40 percent increase over the last winter games in Torino, which in turn conducted 40 percent more DI exams than the previous games in Salt Lake City, Utah, according to Dr. Bruce Forster, the University of B.C. radiology professor and clinician who is the imaging manager for the 2010 Olympics.

As Dr. Forster told the Vancouver Sun, “Imaging plays a more central role in the management of athletes, whether you are a weekend warrior, an elite amateur, a professional athlete or an Olympian.”

Not only will more scans be taken at this Olympics, but since the previous winter games were held, the technology has improved enormously. “We have more tools at our disposal to make diagnoses with more advanced MRI units or portable ultrasound,” said Dr. Forster, who has assembled a team of 19 radiologists and 51 technologists to image injured Olympians and interpret their scans.

Each of the two polyclinics (one in Whistler and the other in Vancouver) will have an MRI, a CT scanner, ultrasound and a digital X-ray machine.

As was the case at the Olympics in Torino and Beijing, images can be shared electronically so that, for instance, if an athlete needs to be transferred to Vancouver General Hospital, the scan can be sent to the facility from the polyclinic.

Posted Jan. 28, 2010