Richmond patients see improved access to nuclear imaging thanks to new gamma camera

A first-in-Canada gamma camera in operation at Richmond Hospital has now seen its 500th patient. The new imaging machine recently unveiled by Vancouver Coastal Health in July scans 20 per cent faster than the previous one, and is reducing wait times for valuable diagnostic procedures by 10 to 15 per cent.

“This state-of-the-art camera is helping our government achieve provide faster access to medical imaging,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Not only is it faster and more efficient than older cameras, the quality of the exams is also consistently higher, which can help detect and diagnose many cardiac diseases and health conditions like cancer or hyperthyroidism.”

Nuclear medicine is a subspecialty of diagnostic imaging, which involves the use of radioactive medications (radiopharmaceuticals) to diagnose and treat disease. The radiopharmaceutical is administered by IV injection, swallowed, or inhaled, then tracked from outside the body using a gamma camera to detect the radiation it emits. Depending on the type of procedure, two or three dimensional images of the internal body are created. These scans help detect and diagnose heart disease and certain cancer types in addition to treating conditions such as hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer, and bone metastases.

“The department began using the new GE NM850 on July 30,” said Lesley Lee, supervisor of Nuclear Medicine at Richmond Hospital.

“We’re very excited to be the first hospital in Canada to receive this state-of-the-art machine,” said Lee. “It has higher image resolution than our previous camera, and it has built-in SPECT/ CT capability, so it helps radiologists interpret results with greater confidence.” She added that faster scan times not only help reduce wait times for imaging, but are more comfortable for patients.

The $1.9 million project, which included renovations to the Nuclear Medicine Department as well as the new equipment, was purchased, in part, with a $300,000 donation from the Richmond Hospital Foundation.