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Positive news for local pacemaker patients, stroke victims

Sault Area Hospital will soon be able to offer MRIs to patients with pacemakers, provide quicker diagnosis and care of stroke victims; specialist with interest in obstetrical medicine to begin practice at SAH
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Some good news for Sault and Algoma residents with pacemakers.

Sault Area Hospital (SAH) will soon be able to provide access to its magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to patients with pacemakers.

“Currently, if someone has a pacemaker we cannot offer an MRI and patients must either have an alternate test or be referred out of town,” noted Ron Gagnon, SAH president and CEO in a written report circulated to the SAH board of directors for its June 7 meeting.

However, "our existing MRI scanner, with some additional protocols and equipment adjustments, will be able to be used to provide an MRI compatible pacemaker service for pacemakers installed locally...allowing approximately 400 patients to receive their care closer to home,” wrote Brandy Sharp Young, SAH communications and volunteer resources manager, in an email to SooToday.

“Patients will require pre-testing to be completed prior to being able to access this new service; once we are able to move forward with the services our Pacemaker Care Team will connect with our patients to make the necessary arrangements,” Sharp Young wrote.

In addition, SAH is streamlining its care of patients suspected of having a stroke.

The hospital’s diagnostic imaging team is working with the SAH Code Stroke Team, to establish a program that will allow patients with suspected stroke symptoms to be brought directly to a CT scanner from an ambulance stretcher for intervention to start sooner if needed.

“Currently, a patient arriving at SAH with a suspected diagnosis of stroke is registered and assessed through the Emergency Department, before being taken to the computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan unit to confirm the diagnosis. Upon diagnosis of a stroke, the patient is administered Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA). SAH’s goal is to reduce the current amount of time from arrival at SAH to receiving tPA to 30 minutes,” Sharp Young wrote.

“By having the patient transferred directly from an ambulance to our CT Unit, we will be able to reduce this window of time to achieve improved patient care.”

The hospital’s diagnostic imaging team has also been working in collaboration with other departments and outside partners to introduce or support other new procedures, such as:

  • Getting ready to perform CT colonography (also known as virtual colonoscopy), which uses low dose radiation CT scanning to get an interior view of the colon that is otherwise only seen with a more invasive procedure
  • Setting up a plan to begin performing Contrast Echocardiography at SAH with the cardiology department

In other SAH developments, a new Internal Medicine physician will be hanging out her shingle at the hospital with a general interest in obstetrical medicine. Dr. Iona-Gabriela Iulius will be seeing high risk obstetrical patients as part of her practice.


Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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