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Why We Need Emergency Radiology Now More Than Ever

Emergency radiology requires radiologists to shapeshift into precise and calculated emergency physicians. From University of California Los Angeles to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, here are some examples of how the radiology department has become a crucial component of emergency services.

When a suicide bomb explosion injured 250 people at an Ariana Grande concert on Monday, May 22, 2017, pediatric radiologist Rui Santos, MD, spent all night conducting low-dose full-body scans of the wounded fans. Many of the victims of the attack had secondary blast injuries as a result of the nuts, bolts, and screws that the bomber had packed into the device.

“On the scout CT, we might see shrapnel in the neck that would cause us to change the subsequent head CT to a head-and-neck CT,” he told the Radiological Society of North America. “Or a patient would come in for an abdominal CT, and the scout CT would show shrapnel in the chest, so we’d change the abdominal CT to an abdominal-and-chest scan.”

The explosion prompted Dr. Santos to implement a set of guidelines detailing how staff should document shrapnel injuries for patients who need scheduled anesthetic. “Information about shrapnel should go in the patient’s record, just like information on allergies,” he said.

At UCLA, Edward J. Zaragoza, MD, a diagnostic radiologist and chief of acute care imaging has watched emergency radiology grow from an understaffed department to a widespread service across underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles. For example, with the university’s partnership at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, Dr. Zaragoza is able to provide immediate imaging procedures to people in dire health situations.

“A mother with an asthmatic son would have to make five bus transfers to get from Compton to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, her kid is coughing the whole way and she doesn’t know if they’re going to make it in time,” said Dr. Zaragoza.

The collaboration predicts they will serve 75,000 patients this year, a significant increase from 35,000 in 2016.

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