Medical imaging and the Interventional Radiology Suite (IR) at Regina General Hospital are revolutionizing the way medical services are delivered to patients, in southern Saskatchewan.
The range of diseases and organs responsive to image-guided therapeutic and diagnostic procedures are extensive and constantly evolving. More importantly, the procedures are minimally-invasive, so patients do not have to undergo major surgeries for such things as cancer treatment, blocked blood vessels and pain management. This minimizes the risk of infection and significantly reduces recovery time, meaning patients are returning home much sooner.
Every year, the IR suite sees over 4,000 patients and performs more than 5,000 examinations.
To help sustain and improve these services, Hospitals of Regina Foundation is raising funds to invest in technology and equipment that will enhance therapeutic and diagnostic imaging in Regina’s hospitals. The Foundation wants to help people, like Bonnie Cameron, live a better life.
Bonnie’s story started in 2014 when a 1500-pound shed fell on her back, compressed her ribs, and left her in unimaginable pain for months. That fateful day, the Regina native had just bought a new shed and was moving it from her trailer to the backyard, with the help of her husband.
Everything seemed to be going well until the shed fell on my back and pinned me beneath the trailer. I blacked out immediately, Bonnie recalls.
Luckily, her husband was there to get her out from underneath the trailer. She was immediately transported to Regina General Hospital where she spent several weeks undergoing surgeries on her ribs and spine.
Unfortunately, the trauma from the shed incident left her with nerve damage, which brought on constant excruciating pain.
She tried everything from physiotherapy to acupuncture to help her carry out simple daily activities, but the pain remained. Her doctor also prescribed a high-strength pain medication called gabapentin.
“The drug dulled the pain slightly, but it wouldn’t alleviate it completely,” she says. “It seemed like I was on a cloud all the time. I was constantly drowsy and couldn’t function at work.”
Then, things took a turn for the better. Bonnie was approached by Dr. Shanti Lala, an interventional radiologist at Pasqua Hospital. He noticed Bonnie, who was manager of medical imaging at the time, looked extremely uncomfortable while working. It was during their conversation that he recommended an interventional procedure known as a selective nerve root block.
This life-changing, non-invasive procedure is performed in the interventional radiology suite at the Regina General Hospital. In the suite, the radiologist uses live imaging –a live X-ray-to guide a needle to the specific nerve root where patients are experiencing pain.
In Bonnie’s case, Dr. Lala used the needle to inject lidocaine – a liquid numbing agent – into nerves in her ribs. Soon after lidocaine was injected, she felt instant relief. However, lidocaine was only a tester. It would wear off a week after her injection.
For long-term relief, she was scheduled in for another injection called marcaine – a pure alcohol solution often used as a local anesthetic on the spine and ribs. The purpose of the solution was to kill the inflamed nerve endings, and relieve the pain long-term.
“Soon after, I felt no pain in all the areas he had injected. It was an unforgettable feeling,” she exclaims. “I cried tears of joy because a year after my accident, I could finally live pain-free!”
Living in constant pain every day, you have no quality of life. Living on pain killers for the rest of my life was unimaginable,” she adds. “Thanks to the services provided at the interventional radiology suite, I have a new lease on life.“There are many people, like Bonnie, who require these critical procedures, who are not able to withstand major surgery,” says Dino Sophocleous, president and CEO, Hospitals of Regina Foundation. “By supporting therapeutic and diagnostic imaging, we are helping to ensure many people are getting quality care, low-risk treatments and returning home with a better life in front of them. Good care is local health care.”