Harnessing New Advances in Care
The Medical Center continues to capitalize on new advances in diagnosis and treatment. This year, the hospital unveiled its $2 million PET-CT scanner, the first in Virginia. This powerful tool can produce clear and precise images of internal organs down to the cellular level, making it possible to detect cancer in its early stages and to diagnose brain disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
The hospital is also a leader in bringing robotics into the operating room. The Paul Mellon Prostate Cancer Research Institute, with funding from the Ward Buchanan Fund, purchased a $1.3 million da Vinci Surgical System, which combines advanced robotics, laparoscopy, and broadband communications. This machine gives surgeons the ability to perform less invasive procedures with greater precision, reducing trauma to tissues and organs as well as minimizing pain and blood loss. It will initially be used for prostate and heart patients and for gynecology.
||One month after new drug-eluting stents were approved for nationwide use by the Food and Drug Administration, University doctors inserted one in a patient's heart vessel. These innovative stents can help keep a patient's heart vessels from reclogging, reducing repeat angioplasties by up to 40 percent and even preventing heart bypass surgeries.
The University also introduced a new treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Called Zevalin™ therapy, the treatment combines an antibody that targets lymphoma cells with a radioactive isotope that kills the cells with bursts of radiation. It is among the first therapies in a new type of targeted cancer treatment called radioimmunotherapy.
Our faculty play a vital role in bringing about such advances. For example, Drs. Carl Berg and Timothy Pruett of the Charles O. Strickler Transplant Center have received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to take part in a nationwide study of the efficacy of partial liver transplants from living donors. It is possible to transfer a portion of a liver from a living donor to a transplant patient, and if all goes well, both the remaining portion of the liver and the transplanted lobe regenerate to almost full size within weeks. The procedure could help address a shortage of organs from deceased donors, but the risks give many practitioners pause. "We're trying to put this whole thing into a format that can be integrated into our society and how we deal with it from a legal perspective, an ethical perspective, and a medical perspective," said Dr. Pruett.
We are already making progress toward one of the principal goals of the Decade Plan, which is to provide convenient and comfortable centers for care. This year we opened the Breast Care Center, a state-of-the-art diagnostic facility where women benefit from a multidisciplinary team of specialists. At the Fontaine Research Park, the opening of a new outpatient imaging center reflects our interest in making clinics more accessible and patient visits less time-consuming. The center will house two high-field MRI scanners, an open MRI, two multislice CT systems, and a bone density scanner.
When patients cannot come to us, we reach out to them. This past summer, members of our health care staff were among the volunteers who provided free health, dental, and vision care for a record 4,749 people in Wise County, near the Virginia-Kentucky border. Now in its fourth year, the annual clinic is the largest in the world organized under the auspices of the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. In all, nearly 1,000 volunteers contributed more than $650,000 worth of services over two and a half days.