Printed in the Jan. 26, 2005 edition of the I.V. News
I have recently been asked several times why the Nifty Tidbits articles have not been in the newspaper as regularly as in the past. There are several different reasons but I can only explain one very clearly. I have seen more doctors and had more medical procedures in the last year than I would have preferred.
It all started about a year ago when I began experiencing severe abdominal pain after eating most meals. After a couple of visits to my doctor and an attempt to solve the problem with an anti-acid medicine, it was decided to do some tests. The first was an endoscope pushed down my esophagus to look at the upper end of my stomach and the lower end of the esophagus. Next was an ultrasound of the abdominal area. This uses high frequency sound waves which bounce off the various organs and reflect back to a receiver. Images are created because empty spaces and organs reflect the sound at different rates.
The last major test was a CT Scan of the same region of my body. This is also known as a CAT Scan. The letters come from Computed Axial Tomography. “Tomos” is a Greek word meaning slice or section and “graph” which means to describe or write. The images of a CT Scan appear as a thin slice of one section of the body. The original machines were used for the head or axis of the body and CAT scans were first put into use in 1974 in a few hospitals. Today CT is the more common term used because all parts of the body are scanned and not just the head.
The CT Scan was invented in 1972 by Godfrey Hounsfield in England. He was later knighted by England for his efforts. Allan Cosmack of the United States also developed the same idea at about the same time. Both men shared the Noble Prize for Medicine in 1979 for their contributions to medicine. A CT Scan is a high speed x-ray machine that rotates in a circle around the body part and takes about 1000 pictures on each rotation. These images are processed by a computer to make one image of that specific slice. The person laying on a small table is then moved forward a few millimeters and the machine makes another rotation and generates another image of the next slice. This is repeated until the section of the body is scanned and appears as a series of thin slice-like pictures. The first machines required hours by the patient to obtain the readings for a single slice and then days were needed to produce the image. Today it is a very quick process and the images can be available almost instantaneously. Chemicals can also be introduced into the blood system which will collect in various tissues and enhance the scan of that region for more detailed study
The end result of these various tests showed that I had a gallstone which prevented bile from getting out of the gall bladder. My stomach also had a strange shape and has probably rotated which most likely contributed to the pain after eating. An unexpected result was the existence of a tumor on my left kidney. My gallbladder and a section of the kidney were removed by laparoscopic surgery. This term means surgery through a keyhole and will have to be explained in more detail in a later article. Yes, the tumor was malignant but recent tests indicate that all the bad stuff was removed. The pain after eating has motivated me to eat less and get more exercise. Because I am feeling better the Tidbits may appear more often as well.