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March 2006 Issue

Ronald Warnick, MD, and John Breneman, MD, see patients at the Precision Radiotherapy Center at University Pointe.
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Expanded Capabilities mean Better Care, More Research

By Amanda Harper
Published March 2006

In the world of medical imaging, it's all about staying at the forefront of technology. And in 2006, UC's department of radiology is proving just how committed it is to bringing the very best patient care--and advanced-imaging research--to Greater Cincinnati.

"My vision for UC radiology is to grow our research capability," explains department chair Robert Lukin, MD, "while continuing to provide excellent patient care and education."

The first steps, he says, are having the best technology and the best people to implement it.

In the past 15 months, the department has invested more than $10 million in new imaging technologies. Over three years, the department has also recruited 20 faculty to implement this sophisticated technology in day-to-day patient care and elevate the institution's level of imaging research.

"I'm turning the rudder of the department a bit," Dr. Lukin adds. "We've added a robust advanced-imaging research component, but we're still wholeheartedly dedicated to our clinical excellence.

"Five years ago there were hints that developments in advanced-imaging technology would soon come to fruition," recollects Dr. Lukin. "And it was only a matter of time before advanced imaging became extremely important in national research, so it was a good time for us to incorporate the technology into our practice."

In diagnostic radiology that technology includes newer imaging concepts such as multi-detector 64-slice computerized tomography (CT) scanners, the combination of positron emission tomography (PET) and CT, and high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners.

Later this month, UC radiology will celebrate the opening of a state-of-the-art MRI center that will give patients walk-in access to the most advanced imaging technology on the market.

Located in the Richard E. Lindner Athletic Center on UC's West Campus, the new facility--known as the Varsity Village Imaging Center--will feature the Siemens Espree MR scanner, a 1.5 tesla (T) scanner that has a shorter scanning field and larger opening than most equipment. The system is patient friendly, without compromising image quality.

This summer, the department plans to add a 3T MRI scanner--which 40 percent of the time will be dedicated to research--that will provide new information about the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The scanner will also be an important research tool for many departments in the College of Medicine.

A PET/CT scanner will also be installed soon at University Hospital. This technology is an important tool in the diagnosis and evaluation of cancer, cardiac disease and disorders of the brain, including Alzheimer's.

In radiation oncology the focus has been on the implementation of image-guided radiation therapy. April marks the opening of the new TomoTherapy Hi-Art System, the first three-dimensional (3D) radiotherapy image-guided treatment technology of its kind within 100 miles of Cincinnati. It will allow physicians to precisely target virtually all tumors--small or large--throughout the body.

TomoTherapy combines the 3D imaging of CT X-ray scans with highly targeted radiation beams in a large treatment field.

By integrating these two elements in one system, physicians can adjust radiation dosages to match the size and shape of a tumor in "real time" and maximize treatment accuracy.

Guided by 3D images, radiation beams are modulated to "wrap around" the tumor. This allows the physician to spare the maximum amount of normal tissue surrounding the tumor and safely deliver high doses of radiation.

"These technology additions are a testament to our commitment to bringing the highest level of patient care to the Greater Cincinnati area," says Dr. Lukin. "As an academic health center, part of our mission is to stay at the cutting edge of medicine. You have to have the best technology and excellent physicians to do that."

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