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The flower of sweetest smell....

... may not necessarily be the shy and lowly thing that Wordsworth suggested. A recent report from New York's prestigious SloanKettering Cancer Center suggests that a flowery fragrance might be one solution to a distressing problem created by modern medical technology. In some cases, it might even be life-saving.

About one-third of all hospital patients and countless numbers of outpatients in the United States today go through some form of diagnostic imaging scan, which permits doctors to make diagnoses that heretofore they could only make through exploratory surgery. CT (computer tomography), PET (positron emission tomography), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are the latest of these, all of which require the patient to lie stiffly for long periods in a confined space, with noisy machinery clicking and whirring all around.

The procedures are painless, but anxiety about what the diagnosis may be, coupled with the noise and close quarters, cause about one in 10 patients to demand release before the test is complete. Not only do doctors lose the diagnostic opportunity, but the monetary cost is huge-a single scan can cost from $1,000 to $2,000. move during the procedure. To calm the beleaguered patient, doctors at Sloan-kettering have found that the synthetic scent of the heliotrope flower, administered through a nasal respirator, has a distinctly soothing effect.

Imaging facilities are employing a variety of techniques to calm the patient and make the procedure more palatable. These techniques include recorded music (favorites are classical guitar and string quartets), pleasantly decorated surroundings, allowing a friend to stand nearby, or just a practice session in the equipment. At Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University, 95 percent of patients undergoing MRI lose their anxiety just by having the staff take time to explain the procedure carefully, assuring them that there is no danger or pain.

If you have been scheduled for a scan, talk over the procedure with your doctor and with the specialist who will do the scan-and maybe take along a bouquet of your favorite sweet-smelling flowers.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:use of flower fragrance to calm patients during diagnostic tests
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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