NEW WAY TO SNEAK A PEEK INSIDE BODY.Byline: Evan Henerson Staff Writer
At InsideTrac, the next generation of preventive medicine preventive medicine, branch of medicine dealing with the prevention of disease and the maintenance of good health practices. Until recently preventive medicine was largely the domain of the U.S. resembles a giant front-loading washing machine with a few too many buttons. But there's no spin cycle, just high-tech gadgetry gadg·et·ry
1. Gadgets considered as a group.
2. The design or construction of gadgets.
Noun 1. gadgetry - appliances collectively; "laborsaving gadgetry" that gives patients a low dose of radiation and provides a view of their insides that most have never experienced. You can see actual calcium deposits on the wall of your arteries or take a virtual tour of your own colon. (Relax. It looks like a low-tech video game.)
When his doctor recommended that he undergo a heart scan heart scan See MUGA. , Richard Stone was mostly concerned about the calcification calcification /cal·ci·fi·ca·tion/ (kal?si-fi-ka´shun) the deposit of calcium salts in a tissue.
dystrophic calcification of his coronary arteries Coronary arteries
The two main arteries that provide blood to the heart. The coronary arteries surround the heart like a crown, coming out of the aorta, arching down over the top of the heart, and dividing into two branches. . The 58-year-old Santa Monica resident had a history of low levels of high-density lipoprotein high-density lipoprotein
n. Abbr. HDL
A lipoprotein that contains relatively small amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides and is associated with a decreased risk of atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. , the so-called ``good cholesterol 'good' cholesterol A popular term for HDL-cholesterol, see there. Cf 'Bad' cholesterol. .''
But while he was at HealthScan, the Beverly Hills-based imaging facility that offers full-body computed tomography Computed tomography (CT scan)
X rays are aimed at slices of the body (by rotating equipment) and results are assembled with a computer to give a three-dimensional picture of a structure. (CT) scans, Stone decided to have ``the works,'' which included a full-body screen and a virtual colonoscopy virtual colonoscopy
A screening examination of the colon in which x-rays obtained by CAT scan are used to generate computerized three-dimensional images of the colonic mucosa. . The bill came out to around $1,500, all out of pocket, money that Stone considers entirely well spent.
Because, while Stone's arteries and colon were in good shape, radiologists discovered a 3.5-centimeter malignant tumor malignant tumor
A tumor that invades surrounding tissues, is usually capable of producing metastases, may recur after attempted removal, and is likely to cause death unless adequately treated. embedded in the wall of his left kidney. The early discovery meant that, although Stone would lose the kidney, he would not have to undergo radiation or chemotherapy.
``What started out to be a bad story ended up being a lifesaving event,'' said Stone, who now encourages all his friends to get similar tests. ``I've become very evangelistic about this. While everybody can't afford to have this done, it's almost like everybody can't afford not to.''
Doctors at HealthScan say that Stone is an ideal poster boy for full-body scanning. He was at risk for heart disease, but suffering no symptoms when he went in for the test.
``Stories like Richard Stone's are going to become more and more common as these scans are done,'' said Dr. Stephen Koch, medical director of HealthScan. ``We're so early in the database. That's what's so exciting and so frightening.''
After a 15- to 20-minute full-body scan - longer if you go for ``the works'' - and a consultation with a radiologist, you can assess your immediate risk for coronary artery disease coronary artery disease, condition that results when the coronary arteries are narrowed or occluded, most commonly by atherosclerotic deposits of fibrous and fatty tissue. , osteoporosis, and cancer of the lungs, kidney, liver, prostate, ovary ovary, ductless gland of the female in which the ova (female reproductive cells) are produced. In vertebrate animals the ovary also secretes the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control the development of the sexual organs and the secondary sexual , uterus and gall bladder gall bladder, small pear-shaped sac that stores and concentrates bile. It is connected to the liver (which produces the bile) by the hepatic duct. When food containing fat reaches the small intestine, the hormone cholecystokinin is produced by cells in the intestinal .
That's three of the leading killers - lung cancer, colon cancer and heart disease - checked out in one shot. Heck, for an extra $175, you can have your head, neck and teeth checked out, too. Leave out the colonoscopy, and you're talking quick, minimally invasive procedures with very fast results. When abnormalities are found, doctors will refer a patient back to his physician or to another center for further tests.
Enough success stories from people like Stone and Mickey Rooney - whose recent tests at HealthScan revealed two blocked arteries, prompting the need for coronary bypass surgery Coronary bypass surgery
A surgical procedure which places a shunt to allow blood to travel from the aorta to a branch of the coronary artery at a point past an obstruction.
Mentioned in: Cardiac Catheterization, Thallium Heart Scan a few days later - will go a long way toward pushing full-body CT scans into the mainstream of preventive care.
But for every doctor who hails the scan as the next generation in preventive medicine, there are medical experts who claim a full-body CT is excessive, and that such a battery of tests generates anxiety more often than peace of mind.
At Kaiser Permanente's Panorama City Medical Center, Dr. Richard Silverstein says that CT scans have been shown to be helpful in detecting early stages of lung cancer. But he's dubious about the benefits of a full- body CT.
``There are little cysts in the kidneys, liver and adrenal glands. They don't mean anything and they're very common,'' said Silverstein. ``If you look hard enough, you'll find lots of things that are insignificant. Then you've wasted resources, time, worry and money.''
Koch has publicly debated arguments over the ``false positive'' results of full-body CTs, claiming the alternative - a false negative - is far worse. Diagnostic testing of any kind may be an inexact in·ex·act
1. Not strictly accurate or precise; not exact: an inexact quotation; an inexact description of what had taken place.
2. science, Koch said, but when a scan turns up an abnormality, a life can be saved.
People with absolutely clear test results, meanwhile, say you can't put a price tag on peace of mind.
``I would never recommend this for everyone in the population,'' said Koch. ``People are using these screening programs to help them deal with their day-to-day anxiety.''
The CardioScreen, which checks only coronary arteries, costs $395. LifeScreen, which includes the heart and the entire body, brings the bill to $795. For all of the above, plus the virtual colonoscopy, plan on spending $1,325. These will almost always be out-of-pocket expenses, except for the very rare patient with special coverage or an urgent referral from a primary-care physician.
But even without a lot of insurance company reimbursement, HealthScan officials say business is thriving. The company hopes to open a second office in Encino early in 2001. Clinics across the country are starting to offer full-body scans. Businesses are setting up corporate accounts for their employees to get tested at a lower corporate rate, and the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Army spent $1 million in 2000 to screen 4,000 of its soldiers as part of their physicals.
``Making one aware of where they stand is the important part here,'' Koch said. ``Maybe it would encourage somebody to look a little more closely at their social habits to try to prevent progression of disease.''
And for those who spend more than $1,000 only to learn that they're perfectly healthy?
``Peace of mind is a great gift to give someone,'' said Stone. ``To know that there's nothing of any suspicious nature growing inside their body? How good is that?''
(1) CT scan technician Glen Blackwell consults with patient Leyka Ganopolsky, 74, before she enters the InsideTrac full-body scanning machine at Access Medical Imaging in Beverly Hills.
(2) Blackwell monitors the computer screen that displays Ganopolsky's in-progress scan. The machine allows doctors to make a life-saving diagnosis with less invasiveness than other tests.
Tina Burch/Staff Photographer