Echo technologists Shelley Fisher and Meghan France stand with Dr. Jeanpaul Lim and the new echocardiogram (right) and the old one (left). The new machine was purchased for Mills Memorial by the Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation, and gives sharper images for heart scans than the old one.

Terrace hospital increasing capacity for heart-scans

The new echocardiogram at Mills Memorial Hospital will give patients quicker access to the test

Northern B.C. residents will now have quicker access to heart scans, thanks to the new echocardiogram recently arrived at Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

Mills Memorial already had a heart-scanning echocardiogram from 2011, which is still being used, but now the hospital has two and hopes to double their capacity.

“Before this second machine, we were doing on average between 5-7 scans a day,” said Dr. Jeanpaul Lim, talking to the directors of the Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation at a presentation at Mills today, Aug. 10.

“With this new machine, using the old and new machines together, we’re hoping to do between 10 and 12 [scans] a day.”

An echocardiogram is essentially a heart-ultrasound, and is used five days a week and often for evening and weekend emergencies as well. It can be used to diagnose a heart-issue, check for possible damage after a heart attack, or to monitor heart-health for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

People from Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Smithers, Haida Gwaii and all over the north will benefit from the services in Terrace, since it’s the only place north of Prince George with an echocardiogram.

“There used to be a roving technologist who toured the northwest,” said Dr. Lim, “but that service ceased December last year… so now all of those patients come here.”

There’s been increasing demand for the heart-scan in Terrace since then, he said.

Technologists are still learning to utilize all the new features of the machine, which provides high-definition and 3-D images not available on the older scanner.

“The old machine is not actually slower than the new machine,” said Dr. Lim. “They are the same speed, but it’s much clearer.”

He added that the old machine wasn’t really lacking, but the new machine simply gives added clarity.

“It’s not like using a laptop from six years ago, where you’re not getting the same information… it’s just much clearer. It’s like watching standard definition TV versus high definition TV,” he said. “You can still make out who the actresses are.”

The machine was purchased by the Dr. REM Lee Hospital Foundation, which fund raises to upgrade hospital equipment in order to reduce patient travel and attract more health care professionals to Terrace and the north.

Their next project is the C-ARM, which could increase services for surgeries at Mills. It gives doctors the ability to digitally guide surgical instruments while watching it on a live x-ray machine. Go to remleehospitalfoundation.org for more details.

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