More than X-Rays
By Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 13, 2011
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The 375th Medical Support Squadron's Radiology Flight has some of the latest technology in the Medical Group and the surrounding area, and provides much more than just X-rays to the servicemembers and families it serves.
The flight offers Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Nuclear Medicine, Computerized Axial Tomography, also known as CAT or CT scans, and Ultrasounds as well as traditional X-rays. These diagnostic imaging services are provided to military members, dependents, and retirees who hold a valid Department of Defense ID card.
The flight uses MRI technology in radiology to see detailed internal structures. The contrast it shows between the different soft tissues of the body makes it especially useful when looking at the brain, muscles, heart or even diagnosing cancer as compared to other medical imaging technologies.
Unlike CT scans or regular X-rays, MRI uses no ionizing radiation. Instead a powerful magnetic field is used to align the magnetization of some atoms in the body, and then radio frequency fields are applied to systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization. The radio frequency fields allow the human body to be viewed and subsequently diagnosed for damage or disease.
The Radiology Flight is the first in Air Mobility Command to offer breast MRIs which, when combined with traditional methods, have a significantly higher detection rate than traditional mammography methods alone.
"If a patient finds something in or on their breast after a mammogram, patients will come to get an MRI, which is safe since MRIs don't put out radiation," said Susan Priebe, 375th RF MRI technologist. "After the MRI, patients will have an ultrasound and the three combined have a detection rate of 99 percent."
The flight also offers traditional mammography.
Nuclear medicine relies on the process of radioactive decay in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Elemental radionuclides--atoms with an unstable structure--are combined with pharmaceutical compounds to form radiopharmaceuticals. Once administered to a patient, these radiopharmaceuticals can localize to specific organs or cells. This allows nuclear medicine to image the extent of a disease in the body based on the cell function and physiology rather than relying on physical changes in the tissue.
In some diseases, nuclear medicine studies can identify medical problems at an earlier stage than other diagnostic tests.
"Nuclear medicine primarily takes imagery as a function of an organ," said Raquel Nash, Nuclear Medicine technician. "For example, if a person had shin splints, they might be too small to detect on an X-ray, but we would be able find it due to increased cellular activity from the damage associated with shin splints."
"When people come to us they either ingest or are injected with a radiopharmaceutical solution," she said. "the absorbed radiopharmaceutical gives off trace amounts of radiation which on our equipment appear to glow allowing us to visualize different functions."
The Radiology Flight also offers CT scans, which can detect how much plaque is located in the surrounding heart vessels or even to see the bone density of a person which could determine their risk for osteoporosis.
CT scans generate a three-dimensional image of the human body from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images taken around a single axis. The scan produces data which is manipulated to demonstrate various bodily structures based on their ability to block the X-ray beam.
"CT scans can be used to scan any part of the body," said Laura Spelbring, CT technologist. "They are quiet and fast and more often than not the scan is performed through the clothes the patient is wearing."
Additionally, the flight offers Ultrasounds - a technique used to visualize muscles, tendons and many internal organs, capturing the size, structure and pathological lesions on a specific object in real-time. The ultrasound is also used to visualize fetuses during routine and emergency prenatal care.
To make an appointment with the flight, bring the order from your medical provider stating you require diagnostic imaging, to the Radiology department in the Scott Clinic.
Appointments can also be made by calling the scheduling office at 256-7259. If scheduling a procedure over the phone, you will need to send in a copy of the order by fax or bring it to your appointment.
Once the procedure is complete, results will be sent to the requesting medical provider.
The 375th MDSS Radiology Flight also serves as a Phase 2 school for new ultrasonography Airmen. Prior to coming to Scott's Phase 2 site, Airmen go through 4-month training at Sheppard AFB, Texas.
As with laboratory or pharmacy services, you can take advantage of radiology services even if you are being seen by a health care provider off base.