Nuclear Medicine Week: A look inside Union Hospital's expanded facility

The first week of October is Nuclear Medicine Week, which falls right in line with big news at Union Hospital.

Posted: Oct. 5, 2017 5:03 AM
Updated: Oct. 5, 2017 5:03 AM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Machinery and technology are all a part of a day's work in the office for Dr. Betty Jo Mills.

Mills is the medical director for Union Hospital's Nuclear Medicine and PET-CT Department. 

"We look at how things work rather than what they look like," Mills explained.

For example, let's say you hurt your foot and you visit your doctor for an x-ray. Though it comes back negative, you still have concerns, so he or she orders for you to get a bone scan, which is a nuclear medicine procedure.

"You come in, we give you a shot of a chemical that is very much like what your bones normally use when they're trying to heal," Mills said, "We take some pictures of that after we've given it a little bit of time to circulate, and you come back, and low and behold it's trying to heal and it picks up more of our chemical and I see that as a big spot on your bone."

With those results, Mills says she would write up a report and give it to your doctor confirming that the foot is broken. That's when your doctor will take over with treatment. 

"We are a small corner of medicine and that's why you never hear of us," she said, "You hear of us when you have a problem and you have to come see us."

The first week of October is Nuclear Medicine Week, which falls right in line with big news at Union Hospital. The hospital recently unveiled their expanded nuclear medicine department which includes more space, a new PET/CT scanner and an updated look.

"We're just very pleased to be in a nice, new department where things are going to be a lot more comfortable for both our patients and for us," Mills said.

Mills says the industry of nuclear medicine has seen an increase over recent years.

"With the event of PET/CT, which looks primarily at cancers, and tumors and you have another scan, your doctor sees something he's worried about as cancer," she said, "and because of that need, that new technology that was developed several years ago, we do more scans and that particular piece of it has been a help by adding the CT portion because we can be more precise about where an abnormality is."

The department also offers the SPECT/CT, which Mills says is pretty new in terms of being out at a community hospital facility.

"We're hoping it has the same effect," she said, "I can now tell the referring doctor yes, there's something there and not only is it here in the upper part of the belly, it's right next to the tip of the liver and it's got all these other structures around it and you need to watch out for these when you're operating."

Nuclear medicine is more than just machinery and computers, it's a way to get patients to treatment that better fits their needs.

"That provides better communication between doctors and that's always a wonderful thing," Mills said.

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