PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Pacific Partnership 2018 (PP18) cardiology and radiology staff assigned to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) successfully performed the first known cardiac Computed Tomography (CT) scan while at sea, March 2.
Cmdrs. Dan Hawley, Ron Willy, Rick Stoebner, and Lt. Cmdr. Amber DeChambeau, were assisted by Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Weiran Wang and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Franz De Dios to complete this historic procedure.
"The techniques employed can be used in the evaluation of trauma patients when there is concern for injury to the heart or major cardiothoracic vessels," said Hawley. "These scans can also assess for structural heart disease, which we may be called upon to perform during PP18."
A CT scan is performed by acquiring X-ray data with a detector that rapidly rotates within a circular gantry surrounding a patient. Computer processing is utilized to create cross-sectional images of bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues inside a scanned body. What's unique is the computerized images can provide much more detailed information and the ability to differentiate many different body tissue densities compared to the few tissue densities detected by normal X-ray.
"In addition to supporting the mission of the Mercy and PP18, this type of cardiac testing is well-suited to the deployed military population in evaluating symptoms quickly, and is highly sensitive for detecting coronary artery disease," said Stoebner. "While we are doing these scans at many stateside military treatment facilities, it is novel to demonstrate this capability at sea."
The term, "floating hospital" rings true, due to the many medical capabilities coupled with advanced equipment such as cardiothoracic CT technology. Specifically, cardiac scans provide detailed 3-D imaging of the heart and allow for diagnosis of medical conditions such as coronary and structural heart disease.
"USNS Mercy is equipped with a modern high-speed 64-slice CT scanner, which makes scans of a moving heart possible," said Willy. "It also represents a successful collaborative effort between two departments during the ongoing PP18 mission."
Cardiac CT scans require special protocols and preparation to account for the moving heart. All CT scans at sea are complicated by the need to account for the pitch and roll of a moving ship. Prior to the departure from San Diego, the physicians and technicians worked with the scanner manufacturer applications representative to ensure that proper imaging protocols and necessary ancillary scanning equipment were available for PP18.
Mercy, along with Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6), are participating in PP18, the largest annual multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Pacific. PP18's objective is to enhance regional coordination in areas such as medical readiness and preparedness for man-made and natural disasters. PP18 consists of more than 800 U.S., partner and host nation personnel working side-by-side to better prepare for potential humanitarian aid and disaster response situations.
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