New digital mammography equipment at GBMC is providing physicians with images of superior resolution and contrast and shortening the overall exam time for patients. The technology is also helping shorten the time needed for several procedures including breast localizations and ductograms.
"With digital mammography, we achieve better penetration of the tissue and the ability to magnify sections of the acquired images for closer examination and to pinpoint calcifications," explains Alex Munitz, MD, FACR, Chair of GBMC's Department of Radiology and Director of the Imaging Center at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center. This technological advancement is enhanced at GBMC by Computer Assisted Detection (CAD), which further improves the ability of radiologists to recognize abnormal areas on mammogram.
Adds Lauren A. Schnaper, MD, Director of the Comprehensive Breast Care Center, "These advantages are particularly useful for finding abnormalities in patients with dense breast tissue."
The time needed to perform breast localizations and ductograms is dramatically reduced by digital mammography. Patients are in compression for one-quarter of the time required with film mammography. "In addition to markedly improving patient comfort, the ability to perform these procedures more rapidly can help us get patients to the operating room more quickly and lessens the chance that the patient will experience a vasovagal reaction," Dr. Munitz adds.
For screening mammograms, the patient exam experience is shortened because images are captured immediately on the computer, eliminating the need to wait for films to be developed. The need for repeat mammograms is decreased because the technologist can immediately see the images on screen, checking that all needed views are available and of good quality. The equipment available at GBMC offers patients another advantage - it can accommodate patients with any size breast, which minimizes patient wait times. There is never a backlog of patients waiting for the piece of equipment appropriate for their breast size.
Digital mammography provides an even wider population of patients with access to the expertise of breast imaging specialists. For example, images can be transmitted over phone lines from remote locations to be read by experienced breast imaging specialists.
The next advance in digital mammography is expected to be commercially available within the next year and a half. Known as breast tomosynthesis, the equipment acquires multiple images from a variety of angles. The images are reconstructed in thin, high-resolution slices, which eliminates the overlapping shadows often found in mammograms. GBMC staff look forward to early adoption of tomosynthesis, in the not too distant future.