RUMFORD – “Now we can perform all up-to-date, non-invasive cardiac diagnoses and follow-up right here at Rumford Hospital,” said Dr. Albert Aniel, an internist at Western Maine Internal Medicine and member of the hospital’s medical staff, commenting on the new, state-of-the-art echocardiograph.

The ultrasound machine is dedicated to cardiac testing, freeing the hospital’s other ultrasound for diagnostic testing of patients with other symptoms. Emergency ultrasounds no longer displace scheduled ones.

From checking to determine if medication therapy is working for people with heart failure to viewing heart valves to find out if they are damaged or if antibiotics are clearing up an infection, the new equipment means that patients with heart problems can have their diagnosis and treatment services in the River Valley.

“We can diagnose heart disease, determine if there has been a heart attack, how severe it was and how it affected the pumping action of the heart,” said Aniel. “And we can assess patients’ hearts following cardiac surgery right here, as well.”

The echocardiograph is used for stress testing, with a treadmill and with chemical stressors for people who are unable to walk.

“When a patient with chest pain presents at the Emergency Department, it’s sometimes five hours before laboratory work to test for heart attack is completed,” noted Aniel. “With this machine we can know immediately and then can transport the patient to the Central Maine Heart and Vascular Institute for angioplasty or surgery within the crucial first hours, if needed.”

In addition the ultrasound study can be put on CD and sent with the patient.

Because the new machine is connected to a computer with a special reporting program package, Aniel can produce a report on patients’ echocardiograms in less than 12 hours instead of the 72 hours required for him to dictate a report, have it typed and returned to him for review. He enters the report on a keyboard as he reads the ultrasound images on the computer screen.

Joan Gerrish, the ultrasound technician who has worked with Aniel for years, said that with this machine patients spend less time in testing, which often means less discomfort. “This machine is more precise, so I don’t have to spend as much time to get the optimal picture,” Gerrish said. “And I can manipulate the view after the patient has left.”

With the new machine there is no need for patients to go out of the area, as the quality of the images is state-of-the-art and scheduling is fast and easy. “The increasing numbers of echocardiograms warranted a dedicated machine,” Aniel said. “Cardiac testing volumes have grown because the incidence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other heart risk factors have grown.”

The new machine is located in the Intensive Care Unit. Not only is it convenient for ICU patients who need tests but it is also comforting to Gerrish to have the specially trained ICU nurses at hand should a patient have problems during the test. According to ICU Nurse Charlene Burgi, “It’s good to have Dr. Aniel – all this knowledge – here for us to tap, especially since a very high percentage of our ICU patients have heart problems.”

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