Naval Hospital MRI techs render emergency support

By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs

Seeing is believing, especially when it’s life-saving.

Matthew Hodgson, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technologist with Naval Hospital Bremerton’s Radiology Department was reviewing initial brain images of a young patient for quality control purposes when he recognized a serious abnormality. With his attention to detail and background expertise, he instantly notified the radiologist, ensuring that timely medical assistance was immediately provided to help the beneficiary.

“We actually do that all the time. We’re always looking at images. Either one of us who sees anything we immediately call radiology. We know anatomy and are aware of pathology, which radiology knows. We’re always watching anyone for anything,” said Hodgson, who along with Johanna Fanara, staffs the NHB MRI clinic. (Continued …)

20130920-054422.jpgMatthew Hodgson, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technologist with Naval Hospital Bremerton’s Radiology Department was reviewing initial brain images of a young patient for quality control purposes when he recognized a serious abnormality. With his attention to detail and background expertise, he instantly notified the radiologist, ensuring that timely medical assistance was immediately provided to help the beneficiary.

“They are both disciplined, diligent, intelligent professionals who truly care about their patients. Ms. Fanara brings over 20 years scanning experience to NHB, and Mr. Hodgson was formerly an educator for Philips, the company that made NHB’s MRI, and was a trained expert who taught other MRI technologists how to use Philips MR systems. They bring a truly synergistic and complementary set of skills to NHB’s MRI team. I cannot imagine a better set of personnel for our hospital,” said Cmdr. Joel McFarland, assistant Radiology Department head, MRI director, and staff radiologist.

The MRI is an advanced imaging machine that uses radio waves and magnetic fields to produce images in a non-invasive way by internally scanning for such wounds as concussions and brain injuries, as well as tissue, organ, bone and ligament damage. It can also used for more complicated patient clinical presentations and symptoms, musculoskeletal/orthopedic injury evaluation, or with patients that are having a slowed recovery from their injuries.

Once Hodgson had notified the radiologist about the young patient’s condition, it was confirmed that there was the presence of a serious brain abnormality. Hodgson then immediately modified and tailored the MRI exam to more appropriately assess the brain abnormality.

According to Cmdr. Mark Morton, Radiology Department head, Hodgson’s concern for the patient’s well being and quick response allowed for a thorough MRI exam to be performed during the initial visit which contributed to an timely diagnosis in minutes rather than hours or even days that can typical for many routine exams.

“Without his assistance the patient may have been permitted to return home with potentially disastrous results. Instead, the patient’s healthcare provider was contacted with a timely working diagnosis and the patient was immediately transferred to a major pediatric hospital for potentially lifesaving treatment,” stated Morton.

“Usually what we see is not life-threatening which it looked like in this case. The patient had a serious condition that needed to be seen and after the diagnosis, was quickly taken to a child neurologist for professional medical care and help,” Hodgson said, adding that the young patient handled the MRI much better than most adults. “The child was amazing and handled the exam very well. An MRI exam usually takes about 30 minutes, and if someone can’t hold still, we have to do the procedure over. But not in this case.”

McFarland notes that it is highly beneficial for NHB to have Hodgson and Fanara as the MRI team.

“They know the exact capabilities of our system, and whenever a question arises they have the contacts and expertise to quickly find the answer. Additionally, since they are so proficient and professional, they allow the supervising radiologists to be able to concentrate on study interpretation rather than facility or personnel management. Going well beyond just performing their jobs, on numerous occasions they have both identified important abnormalities while the patient was on the MR table, resulting in changing the protocol and adding an additional study to prevent the patient from having to return to NHB for an additional exam,” McFarland said.

MRI system technologists have also provided valuable support outside the command. They provided timely assistance to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan in 2011 by answering a request for advanced technology help. They sent complex examinations protocols and related instructions to the sizable Marine base located in Helmand Province for immediate use.

According to Hodgson, exam protocols are really a series of complex sequences that enable a technologist to acquire diagnostic data on specific anatomy details and a number of pathologies. “For example, an MRI gives good resolution to see fat, fluid, bone detail, soft tissue and different images of anatomy and pathology of a patient,” he said.

“The MRI protocols, safety documents, standard operation procedures (SOP) and screening forms are absolutely essential to the establishment of a safe and effective MRI program. An MRI scanner without examination protocols is like a computer without an operating system – it just does not work. The better your examination protocols are, the better are the images that are produced by the MRI scanner. The radiologist needs high quality images free of artifacts to make an accurate diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis is essential for the referring health care providers to provide definitive treatment to the patient. It is all intricately related. Camp Leatherneck contacted us for assistance and Hodgson and Fanara answered the call with the finest support that the industry has to offer,” explained Morton.

“I was able to successfully send our protocols, or exam cards, for use on their system in Afghanistan without having to go through the trouble of building a database from scratch. We had already built the protocols here and by sending them directly down-range, we helped them hit the ground running. The majority of protocols we sent concern the primary types of bodily injuries they deal with, such as brain, spine, upper and lower extremities, and abdomen,” said Hodgson, who retired as an advance technician from the Navy after 20 years.

Hodgson also shared that using an MRI is a complicated process. “It’s a lot more than just putting a patient on the table and then pushing the buttons.”

“It is highly gratifying knowing that NHB is performing excellent MR imaging, above the community standard in my opinion. In cases such as Hodgson’s recent exam, it is extremely rewarding to be a part of the team responsible for catching a life-threatening process early enough to help prevent a catastrophic outcome,” said McFarland.

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