OBH medical staff

Ocean Beach Hospital medical staff are praising a decision to upgrade OBH’s CT scanner — replacing one that was the second oldest in Washington state. Left to right: Gerald Weaver, general surgery; John Dawson, emergency room medical director; and Steve Curry, CT technologist.

ILWACO — South Pacific County residents came together in a big way by helping to fund the Ocean Park Clinic. Now they have a chance to help fund the purchase of a new CT scanner.

How important is a CT scanner?

Consider the story of a local woman, Peninsula resident Lynn Dickerson, who credits a CT scan, done in June 2018, at Ocean Beach Hospital, for saving her life. The scan detected early signs of lung cancer. On July 30, Dickerson had surgery to remove the lower lobe of her left lung. She is now going through chemo and radiation treatments. Dickerson showed no symptoms of cancer at the time of her scan; it was a preventive test she elected to have done because of her history of smoking. Thanks to early detection by the CT scan, she is on track to recover.

“Steve Curry was great, did a wonderful job, and got the information out quickly,” Dickerson said.

Curry is a CT technologist at OBH.

Update: Dickerson is all done with chemo and radiation treatments. She is just setting up with doctors for surveillance. “And I’m waiting for my hair to grow back,” she added with a laugh.

People might want to know what the benefits of the reconditioned scanner are.

Dr. John Dawson, medical director of the emergency room, said better resolutions, which lead to better findings and fewer mis-findings.

“With better resolution and quicker scans, it’ll be much better because we see a lot of strokes and diagnosing by the CT and the physical. Still, we have to have better images to know whether to use TPA, which is the clot buster, because you don’t want to miss and give the TPA if they have a little bleed because that makes it worse,” Dawson said.

Dr. Gerald Weaver, general surgery, said the new scanner will benefit patients in multiple ways.

“This new piece of equipment would provide a faster evaluation of many of the problems we are currently investigating with our current CT scanner. This means that the patient would undergo less radiation and spend less time in the scanner and would have overall a better study completed,” Weaver said.

It is important for a patient to remain as motionless as possible during a scan, and this involves the patient being able to hold his or her breath.

“We will have sharper reconstructed images, as we will be able to scan with a thinner slice and faster scan speeds,” Curry said. “This combination makes for better image quality and an easier time on the patient. We currently may have up to a 25-second breath hold with our current scanner. The new one will have an approximately a 5- to 8-second breath hold. This minimizes patient discomfort and also increases image quality by decreasing the potential for motion.”

Dawson uses the CT scanner frequently. “Normally we work 24-hour shifts in the ER,” he said, “and it could be anywhere from once to 10 times in a day.”

“On average I send two to 10 patients for CT scans each week,” Weaver said. “This may vary on the patients that I see each week and what we have found previously with each one of those patients.”

You might wonder if a patient can request a scan.

“A patient can request,” Dawson said, “but it doesn’t mean we can do it just because the patient requested it. There need to be clear indications for a scan to be done.”

Weaver had this to add about a scan request. “Most scans are performed after the patient’s primary care provider or consultant has requested a CT scan with reasons given for the scan. If a patient would like a preventive scan without specific reasons, this can be done, but will require the patient to pay for the entire scan. Most insurance companies will not pay for a preventive scan at this time.”

Both Dawson and Weaver were asked if they recommended a patient get a scan, and what would cause them to do so.

“Oh, yes,” Dawson said, regarding the recommendation of a scan. “Frequently.” As for what would cause him to request a scan, he added, “A headache that is persistent for a long time and seems out of character for a regular headache. If someone is short of breath, we tend to do lab on them, but we may do a CT scan to find a blood clot in the lungs or a cause like cancer or something that may cause someone to be short of breath that seems out of character for either time or associated symptoms with it and no past history of the same.”

“I recommend that a patient receive a CT scan if there is evidence of a mass that needs further evaluation, or there is an infection that needs further evaluation, or the patient has had trauma, or there is another abnormal finding that would be better evaluated by a CT scan in preparation for surgery or for proper treatment,” Weaver said.

“In the ER we use the CT scanner frequently for trauma and you do multiple scans then,” Dawson said. “If a patient was involved in a bad trauma, we scan the head, neck, back and lower back. That’s the standard. We may do more if there seems to be more going on like in the patient’s chest or abdomen. For example: a car accident victim or a victim of a severe fall from a great height.”

“The scans are read from a group in Spokane, but with electronics the way they are, it’s just like a telephone call,” Dawson said.

“All scans are sent out,” Curry said. “All of our exams are read by Inland Imaging in Spokane. We use what is referred to as teleradiology. We don’t have a radiologist on site; we’re 100 percent teleradiology.”

Are the scanners considered outdated after five years of use?

“They’re something like a computer,” Dawson said. “You know, the technology was doubling every 20 years, and then it got to 10 years, then it went to five. And really now it’s about every two that you have a pretty significant change in technology. So five years is getting real long in the tooth.”

“Our current scanner is the second-oldest Phillips scanner in the state of Washington,” Curry said. “Scanners usually have an average of a 6 to 7-year lifespan, and we’re going on 12-13 years. It has far exceeded its life expectancy, but it’s been a good scanner.”

Will the new CT scanner be more reliable than what we have now? “Yes. That’s my hope,” Dawson said. “I’ve worked at bigger centers in the past and we had the higher, better equipment. Refurbished is not bad.”

Reconditioned, or refurbished, scanners are trustworthy. “The scanner coming to OBH is a 4- to 5-year-old scanner,” Curry said. “Probably a large facility had it and wanted to upgrade to the newest, greatest thing, and traded it in. This goes back to the factory. It’s completely stripped down and comes out totally retested. They check every nut and bolt on the thing. It looks like it just came off the showroom floor. But they sell it at a fraction of the price since it’s reconditioned. It is 100 percent functional.”

“Even the techs have used other ones are really ready for the new scanner because of increased resolution and increased speed. Both very good things to have,” Dawson said.

“The Ocean Beach Hospital Foundation is thrilled to be able to help purchase this much-needed CT scanner for Ocean Beach Hospital,” Kacia Lessnau, Ocean Beach Hospital Foundation president, said. “We are working hard to reach our goal of raising over $200,000 and the community has really stepped up with donations, but we still have a ways to go. We are still accepting donations.”

Donations may be made via:



• Calling 360-642-3181.

“Every donation helps us reach our goal, and we thank you for your support,” Lessnau said.

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