"In the past, children in Western North Carolina had to go to adult departments, trauma centers [or] adult outpatient centers and be seen by adult-oriented physicians and technologists, which isn't optimal,” says Bret Sleight of Mission Children's Radiology and Asheville Radiology. “This will be a good resource not just for Asheville locally, but for all of WNC."
Currently, nine pediatric physicians work at the new imaging center. However, in mid-August, the team will add one more — pediatric radiologist Marianne Ballisty.
"One of the key issues … involved in all of this, along with pediatric tech, is that at every level the care is for the parents, pediatricians and family practitioners who care for children. They will have the trust built into the product,” Sleight explains. “We're going to do the right thing every time with every child, with every exam, and doctors will get back the information they need," he says.
Most importantly, Sleight maintains, the new imaging center will provide high-quality, child-focused care at child-specific radiation levels.
"In the past we were focused on the body part that needed to be scanned: You got plugged in and just got that body part scanned. Whether you were an adult or a child, big or small, it was the same. Now we're focused on the ALARA which stands for 'as low as reasonably achievable,'" he continues. For example, a CT scan is the biggest source of radiation. "It's a miraculous test and saves many lives and prolongs many lives, but we still want to use the lowest, safest dose possible," says Sleight.
This is particularly important for children with chronic disease or illness, who typically get multiple MRIs or CT scans every three months. "We use the minimum dose with the minimum energy necessary to answer the clinical question. So not only do we drop the dose, using software to limit it and still get wonderful images, we’re also focused on prescribing the exam for the individual patient," says Sleight.
With these young patients in mind, artists Ian Brownlee and Julia Burr painted the new center’s interior with nature-themed art. With toucans painted on the wall of the MRI room and a lantern painted on the side of the MRI machine itself, Sleight notes, "It's a very child-friendly environment."
Mission Children's Radiology is located at the Reuter Outpatient Center (11 Vanderbilt Park Drive).
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