Radiology sees inside the body
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- While conducting maintenance checks atop an F-16 Fighting Falcon, Airman Joe Snuffy slips and falls to the hangar floor. As he descends, Snuffy instinctively throws his arms out to break his fall and...CRACK! Both arms splinter. Shock sets in and the next thing he knows, he's in radiology sliding under a computerized tomography scanner.
Although this fictional narrative may not resonate with every day life, a broken bone could happen to anyone.
Thanks to the 35th Surgical Operations Squadron's diagnostic imaging technologists and radiologists, physicians can accurately diagnose and treat injuries ensuring their patients receive a quick recovery.
Capt. Marc Tolley, a 35th SGC radiologist, said, "It [radiology] is especially critical to emergency operations as the physicians require a very quick, but clear, view inside a patient."
Nearly a century ago, Tolley said radiologists had to physically open patients up to directly visualize what's wrong. Sometimes, physicians would have to give a diagnosis without administering the patient anesthetics--meaning they felt everything. Today, the procedure is far less invasive.
After completing a CT scan on a patient believed to have kidney stones, Airman 1st Class Samantha Bradford, a 35th SGC diagnostic imaging technologist, pulls up a 3-D view of the patient's urinary system. The high resolution scan allows her to see the stones and their exact locations, so the physicians know precisely where to create an incision for extraction.
"With these machines we can see 3-D reconstructions, or digital slices of the body, from a patient's bones to elements as small as blood vessels," Bradford said. "When a few seconds could mean the difference between life and death, these scans make it easier to see nearly everything there is to know about the patient."
Thankfully, not every scan is for a life-saving procedure. Staff Sgt. Mike George, also a 35th SGC diagnostic imaging technologist, explains how radiology uses other machines for routine operations, including x-rays, ultrasounds, magnetic resonance imaging and fluoroscopy.
"With fluoroscopy, patients ingest a barium pill that allows us to visualize the movement of a body part, an instrument, or dye in real time," George said. "Fluoroscopy studies body functions, such as the upper gastrointestinal series when evaluating a patient suspected to have gastroesophageal reflux and other problems like difficulty swallowing."
These services are a key factor in servicing a base with Airmen and families from nearly every demographic and age group. Staff Sgt. Emily George, the 35th SGC mammography NCO in charge, said although most women under 40 have little worry of breast cancer, older women require mammography services.
"We offer a comprehensive breast cancer health assessment and screening for women 40 and older," she said. "Misawa operates a dedicated x-ray unit used to detect changes in breast tissue that self-breast exams may not identify. Mammography can lead to early detection and treatment before the body shows symptoms."
With an array of routine and life-saving equipment, procedures and experience, the 35th Medical Group's radiology clinic ensures all members of Team Misawa receive professionally administered, full-service healthcare to every service member and their family.
"Radiology is very important because without us, physicians wouldn't be able to see what's going wrong in a patient's body," Tolley said.