At Stanford's Department of Radiology, where clinical diagnosis and treatment reflect the latest research data, physicians are using the most advanced methods of imaging to push breakthroughs in several areas, working in collaboration with engineers and physicists. Once X-rays were the best medicine could offer. Now, physicians use ultrasound, computed tomography, magnetic resonance, optical bioluminescence and fluorescence to bear down on body tissue even to its molecules. Recently, Stanford radiologist Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, PhD, pioneered the use of another form of molecular imaging, one to track, even more accurately, the biochemical changes that mark cancer before its structural changes are visible.
These advances have affected every aspect of medicine, saving many, many lives. Patients can be diagnosed earlier, vastly improving the chance of recovery. Physicians can plan more accurate treatment, without the kind of exploratory surgery that was once the only way to see what was going on. They can work inside the body in ways previously not dreamed possible.
At Stanford, Walker's physicians quickly scanned her brain to find the clot. Within a couple of minutes, 500 to 1,000 images in that scan were fed through Stanford's specially-developed software to create special images that showed how much blood was flowing through the arteries to her brain and how long it took to get there. That information answered the most important questions about Walker's condition. How much of her brain had the stroke already damaged−and how much might soon be? Could rapid treatment give Walker a good chance for a nearly complete recovery? And could it be done safely?
Seeing Every Step
The ability of physicians to see inside the body, with the kind of detail imaging technology now supplies, has allowed a whole new set of non-surgical, minimally-invasive treatments and an expanded role for radiologists. Among Walker's team of physicians were neurologists, diagnostic radiologists, and an interventional radiologist, Michael Marks, MD, who took the next clinical step in treating Walker. Interventional radiologists, like Marks, enter the body guided by imaging technology, using small tubing called catheters, not scalpels, eliminating traditional surgery's risks from large incisions.