Physicians generally consider X-ray exposure—with its cancer-promoting and other risks—a necessary evil. Especially when technicians or doctors X-ray hard-to-reach areas with many small bones and joints, such as the foot and ankle, they often must take numerous shots before they can capture a useful image of the area to be examined. With repeated X-rays, the patient, doctors, technicians, and anyone else in the room may be exposed to multiple doses of radiation.
But some UTMB orthopaedic surgeons now are using a relatively simple device to greatly reduce radiation exposure. It’s an accessory to the C-arm fluoroscopy unit (so-called because its swiveling arm is shaped like the letter C) that uses a laser to outline in red specific areas in the body that need to be X-rayed, so only one shot is necessary.
“Without this laser localization, when you press that X-ray button you cannot be sure that the radiation dosage you’re giving will not need to be repeated,” says Vinod Panchbhavi, assistant professor of orthopaedics.
Panchbhavi served an orthopaedic fellowship at UTMB under Professor Saul Trevino several years ago before moving back home to England. He recently returned to practice with Trevino and brought with him the knowledge of the laser-imaging device, commonly used in England but not in the United States. UTMB may be the only medical institution in the Houston area using the equipment, Trevino says.
For now, UTMB physicians and X-ray technicians are sharing one device. Panchbhavi hopes to see UTMB purchase more.
“Now all those at UTMB who have worked with the device really want it,” he says.