With medicine, as with most things in life, better tools can mean better results.
Two high-tech tweaks recently introduced to the health care systems of the Richmond metropolitan area illustrate this point.
One is an artificial intelligence enhancement for a colonoscopy, the other is a tool that destroys calcium deposits in coronary arteries with sonic pressure waves.
The colonoscopy add-on is called GI Engineering, which is used at Central VA Health Care System. The AI tool can help endoscopists performing the procedure identify potentially problematic polyps that they would not normally be able to see.
It was cleared by federal authorities for use in April. It’s been in use since June at McGuire VA Medical Center, and “we’ve had very good experience with the tool,” says Dr Michael Fuchs, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at the VA Health Care System and professor. of Medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.
Colon cancer is one of the top three causes of cancer death among veterans. The local VA performs approximately 2,500 colonoscopies each year.
Fuchs says the population the VA works with has about 20% higher colon cancer rates than the private sector. Fuchs notes that most veterans are men, and compared to the general population, they are older and tend to have more co-morbidities and take more medication.
The device has been shown to increase the detection of precancerous lesions by 30%. Contained in a small box and attached to an endoscope, it analyzes the images from the procedure and compares the images with those in its database. If the device detects what it considers to be or could become a cancerous polyp, it will emit a sound and project a green box over the problem area. The doctor can then examine the area.
“You always need a human being to judge what the machine shows you,” says Fuchs.
As the use of the device grows, its database will also increase, which will improve its accuracy. Fuchs says that at some point the AI will reach a stage where it can identify polyps and also provide pathology reports, telling the doctor which polyps need to be removed and which should not.
At three Good help Richmond metro facilities, cardiologists have a new tool, a IVL Shockwave System with a Shockwave C2 coronary IVL catheter, to remove calcium deposits in the coronary arteries in certain patients with advanced heart disease. Such blockages are usually removed with a stent or balloon procedure, but some patients with more severe heart disease may have better results with intravascular lithotripsy, which uses sound to clear the arteries, similar to how lithotripsy procedures used to remove kidney stones. The procedure helps prepare the artery for placement of a stent.
Candidates for lithotripsy include people who have had bypass surgery or are older or have an underlying disease such as kidney disease, according to Dr. Manu Kaushik, an interventional cardiologist at St. Mary’s.
The device was approved for use in the heart in April; it had previously been approved to clear blocked arteries in the legs and groin. It is available at St. Mary’s Hospital, Memorial Regional Medical Center in Mechanicsville, and St. Francis Medical Center in Midlothian.
Health and medicine news in brief
- Children have questions about COVID-19 that parents can’t always answer. Children will have the chance to learn more about the novel coronavirus from two experts, Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine czar, Danny avula, and neuroscientist Catherine franssen in a virtual question-and-answer session at noon on Thursday, October 14, presented by the Richmond Children’s Museum. Registration before 10:30 am on the day of the event. Your children can submit their questions after they register. To free; limited to the first 1,000.
- COVID-19 positivity rates are trending in the right direction in Virginia, with a seven-day positivity rate at 8.2%. Through September 25, the infection rate among unvaccinated Virginians was 635.4 per 100,000 and 7.7 per 100,000 among fully vaccinated.
- COVID-19 long-haul can benefit from Twin 360, an ongoing study at Virginia Commonwealth University that will examine the novel coronavirus in twins. Researchers will examine the interplay of genetic and environmental factors as they seek to understand why some people may recover relatively quickly from COVID while others may have to deal with the aftermath of the virus for months. Participants will be recruited from a database of twins who have registered to participate in the research through the university Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry. Twins interested in Twin 360 can register here.
- VCU is also regular loss of smell and taste in people with COVID-19 aged 18 and over. The survey results indicate that young adults under the age of 40 are more likely to regain taste and smell than older adults, according to an Oct. 5 release. The study is in The American Journal of Otolaryngology.