Friday, June 29, 2007

Catheterization Lab

This week I want to take a break from looking at my mentor clicking images, so I went to the catheterization lab in the cardiology department. I observed an angiography procedure. This procedure is used to visualize the blood vessels near the heart. The doctor first threaded a catheter into an artery of the groin region and pushes the tip of the catheter up to the major coronary arteries. Then a contrast agent is released from the tip to light up the blood vessels. Typical images from angiography are as showed below.

The patient has a stenosis in one of his arteries; therefore, an angioplasty procedure is followed. A typical stenosis region is as shown in the left image above (red arrow). It appears as a sudden narrowing of the blood vessels. After looking at the stenosis or blockage area, the physician asked one of his assistant to get a stent and balloon. Then, he uses a guidewire (basically a very thin wire that fits inside the catheter) to guide the stent through the catheter to the area of blockage and placed the stent there. Next, he uses the guidewire again to direct the balloon in place. Then the physician inflated the balloon, so it crushed the plaque and expand the vessels. Finally, he checks the x-ray to make sure the stenosis is no longer there.

Interestingly, a woman who is not a medical staff always walks back and forth between different catheter labs. After talking with a fellow student in the lab, I found out that she is actually from Boston scientific, a company making medical equipments. She is in the hospital most of the time, making sure the doctors know how to use their products, and introduces the doctors to their new products.

This week I also met with Thanh, a research scientist in the MRI imaging lab. He will be working with me on the T1 mapping project. After talking with him, I found out that my project is to develop an image analysis tool for the researchers and clinicians to perform t1 mapping analysis on a sequence of images. So basically I use Matlab to create a graphical user interface (GUI) for them. Well I guess the “good” thing is that I don’t need to kno what t1 mapping is after all.

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