Med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy races ahead

ZOOMER Magazine - - ZOOM IN - By Dr. Zachary Levine

ONE OF THE MOST amaz­ing break­throughs in medicine over the past 50 years has been the devel­op­ment of imag­ing modal­i­ties that can give us three-di­men­sional pic­tures of the in­side of our body, not only sta­tion­ary but also dy­nam­i­cally. This al­lows doc­tors to learn what the prob­lem is with­out ever hav­ing to make a cut or open­ing to look in di­rectly.

In the case of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease – the most com­mon killer in North Amer­ica – blood ves­sel block­ages can be found and treated un­der ra­di­o­log­i­cal vi­su­al­iza­tion with­out the need for surgery. This has saved lives and pre­vented per­ma­nent dam­age from stroke, kid­ney fail­ure and limb is­chemia (when an ex­trem- ity is deprived of blood and nu­tri­ent sup­ply).

We are now able to look in­side blood ves­sels, find where they are blocked and open them. An­giog­ra­phy, for ex­am­ple, is the use of X-ray tech­nol­ogy to see the flow of blood through a blood ves­sel. Coro­nary an­giog­ra­phy al­lows doc­tors to see the blood ves­sels that sup­ply blood to the heart. If a block­age is found, it can be opened by bal­loon di­lata­tion and kept open with a stent, known as an­gio­plasty, a heartand life-sav­ing pro­ce­dure.

This vi­su­al­iza­tion is not just for the heart. An­giog­ra­phy of the brain uses the same tech­nol­ogy to find where blood sup­ply is be­ing blocked. Then ei­ther clot-bust­ing med­i­ca­tion can be ad­min­is­tered, an an­gio­plasty can be per­formed or the clot can be re­moved, open­ing the pas­sage and restor­ing func­tion to the im­per­iled brain tis­sue. The same tech­nique can be used to open up blocked ves­sels sup­ply­ing the limbs and the kid­neys. This will save the limb or the kid­ney, re­spec­tively, from per­ma­nent dam­age and dys­func­tion.

Dr. Zachary Levine is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the fac­ulty of medicine at McGill Univer­sity Health Cen­tre and med­i­cal correspondent for AM740 (a ZoomerMe­dia prop­erty).

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