Queen of the Valley debuts BodyTom, the portable CT Scanner
Courtesy: Napa Valley Register - ISABELLE DILLS
Severe arthritis in Rudolph Vercelli’s spine was causing him constant pain — he was even losing the use of his legs — but the 71-year-old wasn’t ready for a wheelchair. Surgery seemed his best option.
At Queen of the Valley Medical Center he met with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jason Huffman, who agreed to perform a posterior cervical-thoracic corrective osteotomy — a complex spinal surgery.
Unknown to Vercelli was that he would be the first patient in the state to undergo the surgery using a new intraoperative computed tomography (CT) scanner, called the “BodyTom.”
The BodyTom is a ring-shaped CT scanner that provides real-time 3D images during surgery, allowing surgeons to immediately analyze and verify the success of a procedure while it is being performed.
The device is about the size of a twin bed. The patient is on an operating table similar to a diving board, because it’s only attached at one end. The ring-shaped scanner will drive itself remotely around the patient, so there’s no need to transfer a patient between the operating room and imaging area.
The BodyTom, a product of the NeuroLogica Corporation, had a price of just under $1 million — but Queen of the Valley incurred no costs for the device. It was paid for using donations given to the Queen of the Valley Foundation.
“Many generous community members contributed to it — including the Tim Herman family — in support of the development of the Peggy Herman Neuroscience Center,” said Vanessa deGier, director of communications and marketing.
Vercelli’s surgery took 10 hours and involved cutting the bones of the spine to restore the shape to normal, then inserting screws to hold the shape in the normal position. The screws, each 4.5 millimeters in length, were inserted into an area of bone only 5 millimeters in diameter.
Going into surgery, Vercelli said he felt both “nervous” and “optimistic.”
“I wasn’t 100 percent sure everything would turn out OK, but I’ve been pleased with my recovery,” he said.
Any surgery that involves cutting into the spine is a “challenging surgery,” said Huffman, the surgeon. But the real-time images provided by the new CT scanner help decrease the risk of major complications, such as artery and nerve damage, he said. The images also help pinpoint exactly where to place a screw into the bone, allowing surgeons to make smaller incisions, which reduces the risk of infection, Huffman said.
As he becomes accustomed to using the new CT scanner, Huffman said he expects the time spent in surgery to be reduced. But the length of the surgery didn’t bother Vercelli.“I was totally out,” he said. “And if it had taken 15 hours, it would have been worth it.”
Queen of the Valley is one of four hospitals in the country to have purchased the new scanning device, which may ultimately replace the traditional 2D X-ray machines used during certain surgeries.
“While it will be used primarily for brain and spine surgeries in the short-term, (the BodyTom) may also be used when performing thoracic, vascular, trauma and maxillofacial surgery, as well as diagnostic and interventional radiology procedures,” read a statement from Queen of the Valley.
Vercelli expects his recovery to take several months, and for two of those months he’ll be wearing a neck brace. It’s been about three weeks since his surgery, and Vercelli said he’s now able to use a standalone walker. The next step will be relearning to walk on his own. In the meantime, Vercelli said he’s looking forward to his post-surgery follow-up appointment with Huffman, because he’ll get to see some of the images taken by the BodyTom.
“I didn’t know I was going to be a guinea pig for it, but I feel honored,” Vercelli said.