UHB provides a comprehensive range of diagnostic and interventional procedures utilising high specification imaging equipment. This is supported by the latest image evaluation software, distributed via the ultimate in PACS (Picture Archiving Communication Systems) management platforms.
The department plays a key part in the treatment of the more than 806,000 patients who are treated at the hospital every year.
The department has inpatient and outpatient facilities, as well as dedicated scanners located in the Emergency Department. This separate emergency imaging facility means access to the main imaging services can be planned more effectively, a key element in supporting research which requires regular and precisely scheduled imaging.
QEHB runs inpatient and outpatient imaging separately but as part of integrated department on a single floor.
These services are available during extended hours to cater to patients needing scans outside normal working hours.
The Imaging Department provides the full range of clinical imaging requirements of a large University teaching hospital, yet is also adaptable to individual research needs.
In particular, the MRI suite of equipment is used to carry out non-standard scans which are requested and approved as part of the required research approvals process.
The hospital’s Imaging and Nuclear Medicine teams play a major role in preparing research bids to ensure the necessary resources are available and that any imaging components are consistent with patient safety and care.
The Imaging department has staff dedicated to coordinating research activity. They coordinate research imaging with regular clinical activity and have a key role in ensuring all imaging events are scheduled according to the relevant protocols. They also play a role in ensuring consistency of scanning methodlogy and compliance with relevant governance requirements.
Support for research
The imaging department plays a key role in research activity across all specialties at UHB, including both cancer and non-cancer studies.
The extent and configuration of UHB’s Imaging Department means it is often used by other hospitals to support their own research work.
In particular, the Department has provided imaging support to research being carried out by Birmingham Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust.
Nuclear medicine involves the use of radioactive materials to create images or deliver treatment, and both these capabilities are important in a wide range of research activities. The Nuclear Medicine Department operates as an integral part of the imaging service providing support to a broad range of research programmes.
A gamma camera takes images by detecting the presence of a radioactive substance which has been introduced to the patient’s body, by injection, inhalation or ingestion. The substance used emits gamma rays, which are detected by the machine and converted into visual images. Different substances are used depending on the type of scan required.
The SPECT-CT machine uses a combination of a gamma camera and a CT machine, which takes a number of X-rays to create detailed images of the body’s structures. By merging the gamma camera and CT images, the SPECT-CT creates a new image which shows the distribution of the radioactive substance in relation to internal structures such as bones and organs.
The PET-CT scan uses a similar principle to the SPECT-CT, but uses a different type of radioactive material and detector. PET stands for positron emission tomography, and uses biologically active positron-emitting substances, for example to image tissue metabolic activity.
A DXA scanner is a dual energy x-ray system that takes pictures and measures the density of bone in different parts of the body. This is used for osteoporosis diagnosis and research.
Nuclear medicine can also be used to provide data which is not presented as an image.
These measurements include:
- Glomerular filtration rate, the gold standard for establishing kidney function
- Red cell mass
- Plasma volume
The use of nuclear medicine in research is not limited to generating data. Some research looks at how the use of radioactive materials can actually help treat conditions.
UHB has a radiopharmacy on site to prepare the materials it uses for such therapies, some of which are part of research programmes.