HealthFlash Marketing Communications
For Immediate Release
He knows a happy person when he sees one. But, Dr. Michael Devous Ph.D, Associate Professor of radiology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, is not looking at your smiling face. He is looking inside your head at a sophisticated nuclear image, or so called "mood map" of brain activity. For the past 12 years, his ground-breaking research has been helping to unravel the mysteries of intelligence, emotion and other brain functions and to pave the way for new and more effective treatments of depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia and a variety of mental illnesses.
Currently, Dr. Devous--who is moderating educational sessions on brain imaging at the Annual Meeting of the Southwestern Chapter of the Society of Nuclear Medicine in Dallas March 11 to 14--is focusing on the role of the brain in such psychiatric disorders as obsessive-compulsive
behavior and depression as well as on advancing technologies for diagnosing epilepsy, dementia and stroke. His work is firmly establishing Dallas as one of the centers for functional brain imaging research nationwide.
Using a sophisticated nuclear imaging technology known as SPECT--Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography--Dr. Devous captures detailed images of the brain at work and identifies distinct areas responsible for particular emotions. Simply explained, SPECT nuclear imaging involves giving a patient a minute dose of a radiotracer--a chemical compound with an affinity for the organ or tissue to be imaged that has been tagged with one of several radioactive substances.
Each radiotracer travels through the body and is taken up by tissues or organs in different concentrations, depending on the chemical used. A sophisticated high-tech camera picks up the radioactive rays and creates a computerized image of the organ or tissue for clinical study or evaluation.
Nuclear imaging shows function, as organs and tissues metabolizes the radiotracer--not structure, as do other imaging techniques such as X-rays or MRI. Therefore, Dr. Devous is able to see which areas of the brain are active when a person is experiencing a particular emotion.
"In a depressed person, we typically see a reduced activity in the frontal and temporal (middle) lobes," he says, "while the brain of a normal person would show significantly more activities in these zones.
"Pharmacological challenge" research, a unique experimental technique developed by Dr. Devous and his team in Dallas two years ago, provides the underpinnings for much of today's breaking research on emotion and the brain. In a series of studies, nuclear images of subjects' brains were taken before and after they were given a stimulant known to cause a feeling of elation. Clear, measurable changes in brain activity took place in response to the drug, providing a basic map of the brain reas responsible for this emotion. Today, researchers can correlate brain activity patterns with far more subtle changes in emotions and are beginning to use this information to help differentiate among specific types of mental illnesses.
As part of these studies, Dr. Devous is now comparing the response of clinically depressed subjects with normal subjects and finding that depressed people register significantly less response to stimulant drugs, suggesting a physiological cause for depression.
In another ongoing series of studies, Devous is finding several distinct but consistent brain activity patterns among the clinically depressed. "This suggests that markedly different types of depression exist that may require different treatments," he says. "Today treating depression involves trying a series of drugs until an effective agent is found. However, in the future, brain imaging will likely pinpoint an effective drug immediately, lessening psychological and physical stress on the patient and bringing an earlier cure. This is extremely significant because severe depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, affecting over 10 percent of the population--and occasional situation-specific depression is far more widespread."
Based on current research, Devous predicts that people who exhibit certain brain patterns will prove to be far more responsive to treatment than others. His studies also suggest that depression has a strong biological component because depressed patients with different brain scans show different responses to mood-altering drugs. His finding also suggest that environment plays a major role and that internal chemical cycles in the brain that bring on or alleviate stress may in turn bring on depression.
"The brain scans of those suffering from other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive behavior, look quite different from depression," he adds. "For example, in addition to significant areas of abnormal brain functioning, many schizophrenics show hyperactivity throughout the brain, suggesting an informational networking problem within the brain.
Also, a number of consistent but markedly different patterns in brain scans among those labeled as schizophrenic suggest that they may actually suffer from a grab bag of several disorders."
Nuclear imaging is the only technology that allows us to view physiological brain changes brought on by emotions and mental illnesses and to look at the complex and baffling interrelationship of the mind and the body," Devous says. "What's more, better identification, understanding and evaluation of mental illness holds tremendous promise for more effective treatment.
Fountain Gallery for People with Mental Illness
A woman stares pensively from the canvas, her face pale with eyes watching and wary. Amy Koy's self portrait is revealing -- of both her talent and mental illness.
"This self-portrait was one of the first finished works I painted outside of school assignments," she said. "In each of my self-portraits I look different. I donít consider myself a finished product."
Koy is one of 15 artists who are exhibiting their works at the Fountain Gallery, 702 Ninth St., Manhattan, on Tuesday, Sept. 19. And like Koy, all suffer from chronic mental illnesses. Yet their works are not the results of art therapy sessions or disturbed mental ramblings but rather professional-level works of precision and vivid imagery.
"Art is more than that (therapy) for me," said Koy, 51, who was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder. "It is the main focus of my life. Therapy is therapy, but art is my life. That's why is gallery means so much to me."
The gallery, which is open to the public, is run by Fountain House, a New York-based non-profit organization that assists the chronically mentally ill with day-to-day living through a variety of programs including housing, employment, education and case management. Opened in 1948, Fountain House pioneered the "clubhouse" method of helping people with mental illness by engaging them as partners in their own recovery. Those who use Fountain House's services are "members," not clients or patients, and are expected to volunteer at Fountain House and particpate in the life of the clubhouse in an ongoing and substantive manner.
The gallery, for example, was created by and for the members, and a committee of 12 determines which artworks are worthy of exhibition. The gallery includes works ranging from abstract paintings and photographs.to sculpture and jewelry.
"Photography is my passion," said Fountain House member Tony Cece, who considers New York City as his open-air studio. "Every day I see angles, composition and other photographic situations as I walk around the town. I take photos with my mind and heart and shoot by instinct without thinking about the mechanics of the camera."
"It's a great accomplishment," said Esther Montanez, director of Special Projects at Fountain House, located at 425 West 47th St., Manhattan. "The mentally ill have never had their own gallery before."
But Fountain Gallery is more than just a project for the mentally ill. While some Fountain House members are self-taught, others have art education and degrees in art, and for all the gallery is their means of making a living and finding their places in life. Sixty percent of the profits go to the artists and 40 percent to Fountain House.
"Our object is to make money," said Montanez. "Our goal here is for our members to work hard on their art so it can be sold."
Martin Cohen, 40, who holds an MFA and has exhibited his work in numerous galleries, recently sold one of his paintings for $1,000.
"Right after I left college I began to battle with schizophrenia and depression, and I felt stigmatized by my illness," he said. "I would often work during the worst times of my illness, acting out on paper and canvas instead of real life."
"But my illness was preventing me from socializing. Fountain House came along at the perfect time -- I was forced to interact with people everyday."
Every year more than 1,000 people benefit from Fountain House's daily services, and the clubhouse method has spread to 300 programs worldwide.
For Cohen, who suffered through a dozen breakdowns, 10 hospitalizations, and a derailed art career after a promising start at SUNY Purchase and Carnegie Mellon University, the gallery meets the need.
"Now I'm strong enough to feel like I can promote myself and my art," Cohen said. "Things are starting to roll for me now. All of a sudden, my work is out of the studio and exposed to the public again."
Cohen's art is startling in both its use of geometric images and color. The cold shapes are strengthened by brilliant strokes of color, and within the shapes are elements of collage, transforming the shapes into vignettes of life. His human figures also are geometric but blurred on the edges and softened by muted browns and yellows.
The Fountain Gallery exhibit is entitled "Diverse Structures," which aptly describes the variety of techniques used.
"If you don't do the work, you feel bad about yourself, like you're letting a talent go to waste," said sculptor and jewelry-maker Michelle Cohen, who came to Fountain House with severe depression and schizophrenia. "It's the same if you do produce work and have no place to show it."
But the Fountain House members are not the only ones benefiting from the gallery. Art aficionados have snapped up a number of pieces at prices far below their worth, and major corporations have shown interest. In fact, Citicorp is hosting a show in its gallery later this year featuring Cohenís work.
And the community has given to the gallery as well. Architect Chris Scholz of Elskop & Scholz in Manhattan designed the 828 square-foot gallery pro bono. He has a relative who suffers from mental illness. And neighborhood businesses, friends of members, and corporations all have contributed funds to make the gallery a success.
"Having my work shown in the gallery is the best thing that every happened to me," said Michelle Cohen. "I feel like I have a lot to say; I want to express myself. And now, at last, I've found the ideal place to do that."
For Equipment Purchasers
(Personalize with your hospital information)
MY HOSPTIAL Offers State-ot-the-Art Diagnostic Care
Among First in the Nation to Install New Digital Film Viewer
"It was there, but I just couldn't see it--the small dark shadow in the lower corner of the x-ray film," says Dr. xx of xxx. Based on his years of education and experience, he knew that small shadows such as this can be significant--significant enough to change the way patients sleep at night and say goodbye to their children in the morning. Sometimes, they indicate a small, early stage of cancer. "This finding would have been missed with the film viewer we typically use," he said. "And the sooner we catch a cancer, the better the rate of cure."
Fortunately, although a genuine medical x-ray, doctor xx had viewed this film as part of a demonstration of the newest advance in medical film reading--digital film viewing technology. He had been comparing the details visible on an x-ray when read the on a conventional lightbox--the way films have been looked at by diagnosticians around the world for the last 100 years--and when read on a SmartLight digital film viewer, with its vastly improved film viewing conditions.
As a result of the comparison, this week xxx became one of the first facilities in the nation to offer state-of-the-art diagnostic care with its new SmartLight digital film viewer.
"Whether it's seeing a smaller, earlier cancer lesion, pinpointing a broken bone or other traumatic injury more precisely, or locating a breast cancer lesion close to the skinline where it is typically hard to see, xxx's doctors now have an important new diagnostic edge--access to much more image detail and clinical information captured on film," says Dr. xx. The traditional lightbox, simply an electric light bulb and a sheet of plastic, washes out much of the clinical information recorded on the film.
With a clearer and more detailed image, diagnosis can be earlier and more accurate. For patients, that may mean less invasive surgery, less radical chemotherapy in cancer cases, shorter hospital stays and significantly better prognosis. It can even mean the difference between life and death.
How does SmartLight offer dramatically improved viewing conditions? What are the shortcomings of the lightbox? "Imagine driving a car directly into the sun on a bright summer day. It's difficult to see where you're going and potentially dangerous," doctor xx responds. Radiologists are frequently subjected to a high level of blinding glare as they face a conventional lightbox eight hours a day making judgements that can alter the course of patients' lives."
The problem is extraneous light escaping from around the edges of the x-ray film, as well as through the bright areas of the film itself. This glare begins to blind doctors to the details in the image. Squinting and straining to see, they often experience visual fatigue, further reducing diagnostic accuracy.
With xxx's new SmartLight, a radiologist snaps a film in place, and instantaneously and automatically the viewing area surrounding the film is masked in dark blue, blocking all
unnecessary light. It also automatically adjusts light intensity to the optimal level for that particular image. "A dark film needs brighter light to illuminate fine details that may provide important information about a disease. SmartLight can generate up to eight times the light intensity of a conventional viewbox, when necessary, " he says. "The traditional lightbox only has one light level."
Doctors at xxx can take advantage of a range of advanced features. With the touch of a finger, an area of clinical interest is illuminated for maximum image clarity, while the surrounding portions of the image fade to black.
SmartLight also suppresses film scatter and controls ambient room lighting. To physicians, this is optimization of viewing conditions for fine detail perception. To patients, it is the important peace of mind that a radiologist is seeing everything on their film.
"Mammography is a major area of concern for many of our patients," Doctor xx adds. "It's an extremely important defense against breast cancer." The new viewer has special
mammography features that help doctors examine films in depth. It automatically provides a region by region comparison of the left and right breasts as well as special illumination along the skin line, where abnormalities may be difficult to see.
The digital film viewer automatically complies with recently issued FDA regulations governing the reading of mammography films. "Our radiologists now read films under far superior conditions.. All that is good news for our patients," Doctor xx says.
Because these advanced features and enhancements take place effortlessly, doctors enjoy another important benefit. Comments Doctor xx: "Now, I can concentrate on what I do best--reading film and caring for patients at xxx by providing a timely and accurate diagnosis."
To take advantage of xxx's new the SmartLight digital film viewer, call xxx at xxx.
Television Interview Pitch Letter
Dear TV Producer:
It can save your life! An annual mammogram, along with a monthly breast self-exam, are the best defense against breast cancer. But are you getting the maximum results from your yearly procedure? Do you play an active a role in your own healthcare? Does your wife, girlfriend or daughter?
"Women must take the initiative to combat breast cancer," says Rebecca Zuurbier, M.D., director of Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Center at Georgetown University, a nationally recognized breast screening and diagnostic center. "A monthly self-exam is extremely important, as is an annual physical exam by a healthcare professional, who can also teach you the best way to examine your own breasts."
"Evaluate mammography facilities." she advises," "Find out whether they handle a large volume of the procedure. Specialists who read breast films daily may be more attuned to subtle details that signal a problem. Look for the latest in breast cancer technologies, which may provide earlier detection. Every year, a significant women die needlessly of breast cancer. No one can afford to ignore the problem."
I'd like to suggest an interview with Dr. Zuurbier, during National Breast Cancer Month in October. Extremely informed and articulate, this Harvard-educated physician screens hundreds of women each year and can provide valuable insight and advice on how to select a mammography center. (See attached)
* New technologies being successfully applied to the fight against breast cancer, including digital film viewing, ultrasound and PET.
* Breast cancer detection and treatment in the next millennium.
* New FDA Mammography Quality Standards Act guidelines for more effective mammography.
* New multi-disciplinary approaches to fighting breast cancer, which provide integrated services from risk assessment through surgical consultations, if needed.
* Inspiring case histories of women who assumed active roles in their healthcare with positive
In the forefront of the fight against the disease, the Betty Lou Ourisman Center recently installed a SmartLight Digital Film Viewer, which employs important scientific breakthroughs to give doctors access to an unprecedented level of image detail and clarity on mammography films. It represents the first advance in medical film reading in over 100 years.
Along with the Center's other advanced equipment, SmartLight would make a fascinating visual backdrop for Dr. Zuurbier's presentation. She can demonstrate firsthand how anatomical details not seen on a traditional lightbox dramatically appear when the same film is placed on a SmartLight.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 180,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year. I hope you will agree that this segment would be of interest everyone. I will call you shortly to follow up your interest, or call me at 888-655-3434.
For Immediate Release
Selecting A Mammography Center
What to Consider for this Important Annual Exam
"A mammogram, along with a monthly self-exam, are a woman's best defense against breast cancer after age 35," says Rebecca Zuurbier, M.D., director of Betty Lou Ourisman Breast Center at Georgetown University, who screens hundreds of women each year for early signs of breast cancer.
While selecting a medical practice for your mammogram is an important decision, evaluating your options and making the right choice can be difficult. "Feeling comfortable with your radiologist and practice group is important," she say, "but focusing on a few other important factors also is helpful." Here's what to consider:
Specialization in Mammography. Is the practice dedicated to mammography in particular or do they handle a large volume of the procedures? In general, the more mammography a practice handles, the better they will be at reading your film. Specialists who read breast films every day are attuned to the subtle details that may signal a problem. At the same time, they also understand the normal variations in breast images that mean nothing at all. So, you will not worry needlessly.
Additional Mammography Training. While most radiologists are well qualified to perform mammography, some have special training in the discipline as a sub-specialty. With such a practice, you enjoy the benefits of their added qualifications and experience.
Radiologists On Site. Sometimes mammography films are shot in one location and read in another. Because you will never meet your doctor, you may find this an impersonal approach. Also, if additional films are required or you have questions, you may have to make a trip back.
New Mammography Technologies. Is the facility using up-to-the-minute equipment? For example, a new FDA-approved alternative to the lightbox, the SmartLight Digital Film Viewer, allows the radiologist to see more of the details actually on a mammography film by creating optimal film reading conditions. It also has several other features that allow doctors to conduct a more thorough reading of a mammogram. The traditional lightbox creates glare and can bleach out much of the information actually captured on film.
Specially Trained Technologists. An x-ray technologist actually shoot the film the radiologist reads. Technologists with strong backgrounds in mammography will be particularly skilled at shooting even difficult films correctly, avoiding unnecessary retakes. If your case has any special requirements, they will know just what additional films are needed.
Affiliation the NCI. Is the facility affiliated with the National Cancer Institute? This government agency oversees cancer research, instruction and treatment centers. A relationship with the NCI means the practice is in the forefront of the fight against cancer.
Patient Education and Counseling. Woman can play an active and helpful role in their own healthcare, if desired. Providing patient information may reflect this philosophy and indicate a high level of involvement in the fight against breast cancer.
"If you have identified breast cancer risk factors, you might consider seeking out a multi-disciplinary breast center," advises Zuurbier. Such a center typically has radiologists, a full range of physicians, counselors and nurses on staff. A nurse or technologist often conducts a physical breast exam in conjunction with your annual mammogram and gets to know what is normal for you. These centers usually also provide risk assessment and genetic counseling and have breast surgeons and oncologists available to provide you with information and care if needed.
Nuclear Medicine - A Window into the Body
Imagine being able to see inside the body and actually observe how it works--blood through the veins, thoughts lighting up the brain, organs performing their complex tasks. Picture being able to spot abnormalities --tumors, obstructions, infections --that are missed by other diagnostic tools. And finally, think of being able to treat some of those disorders by sending special radiopharmaceutical to the precise location of the problem inside the body.
All this is possible through Nuclear Medicine, a highly sophisticated medical discipline that uses radioactive substances to chart the inner workings of the body. Other medical imaging techniques such as X-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MR) and computed tomography (CT ) offer detailed pictures of anatomical structure but not function. The imaging techniques of Nuclear Medicine show internal functioning, such as blood flow, organ activation or increased cellular activity , revealing both how a healthy organ works and how a diseased one differs from it.
For this reason, Nuclear Medicine is making great strides in pure research as well as in diagnosis, treatment monitoring and, in a few cases, the treatment itself. Today, Nuclear Medicine is at the frontier of discovering and understanding complex physiologic processes of the brain, heart and other organ systems, revealing more each year about the body's metabolism. While almost 40 years old, Nuclear Medicine is just coming into its own, using state-of-the-art tools and techniques. Some consider Nuclear Medicine the wave of tomorrow in both diagnosis and treatment.
By its very nature, Nuclear Medicine is a multi-disciplinary field, dependent on contributions from physics and chemistry as well as medicine. It has an enormous impact on every field of medicine, especially cardiology (heart), neurology (brain and nervous system), oncology (cancer), orthopedics (bone), endocrinology (hormonal system), gastroenterology, (digestive system), hematology (blood}, nephrology (kidney}, and pulmonary (lung}.
HOW NUCLEAR MEDICINE WORKS
During a standard Nuclear Medicine procedure, a patient ingests, inhales or is injected with a small amount of a radiotracer - a chemical compound attached to one of several radioactive substances, known as radionuclides. Each radiotracer travels through the blood stream and is taken up by body tissues or organs in different concentrations, so specific areas or organs can be targeted and studied. For example, radioactive iodine is picked up by the thyroid in greater concentrations than by other parts of the body.
Small amounts of gamma rays, similar to flashing light, are detected from the targeted organ by a machine called a gamma camera. The gamma camera works on the same principle as a regular camera, but picks up gamma rays instead of light rays.
Since changes in functions often occur in a diseased organ before changes in structure, radionuclide scanning is valuable diagnostic tool because is can detect these changes earlier than other techniques can. For example, an early developing tumor may cause increased blood flow and cellular activity, which would allow a greater amount of radionuclide to be deposited at that site. Thus, the tumor would show up in Nuclear Medicine tests earlier than structural changes would be visible in X-rays.
Nuclear Medicine imaging can also be used for early evaluation of a treatment, since small improvements in function can be detected. If no improvement can be seen, this suggests a need for a change in therapy.
Because radionuclides have short half-lives and deliver only a very low dose of radiation, Nuclear Medicine imaging is an extremely safe procedure, exposing the patient to a smaller amount of radiation than a routine X-ray procedure. Some of the most commonly used medical radionuclides are technetium-99m, iodine-123, thallium-201, gallium-67, indium-111, xenon-133 and fluorine-18.
Approximately 12 million Nuclear Medicine procedures are performed annually on patients in the United States. Another 100 million Nuclear Medicine procedures are performed on clinical laboratory samples or in biochemical research each year.
MORE SOPHISTICATED NUCLEAR MEDICINE IMAGING
SINGLE-PHOTON EMISSION COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY (SPECT) - Taking the standard Nuclear Medicine scan a step further, the SPECT procedure uses a special technique --a tomography --in which the gamma camera rotates around the patient, enabling it to focus on one plane at a time. The net result is a series of many clear images, each at a different parallel plane, as if the organ cut evenly into many thin slices, and each slice were individually photographed. The computer records all these images and can put them together in any configuration desired.
Metaphorically, picture the organ as a loaf of bread. The SPECT procedure visually breaks down the loaf into, say, 15 slices. Aided by a computer, the technologist then looks at the loaf of bread (or organ) sliced horizontally, vertically, diagonally, thick or thin. If there a green mold (or tumor) were growing inside the loaf, its exact location could be pinpointed at two inches down and three inches over on the fourth slice of bread. A regular Nuclear Medicine scan, on the other hand, provides one image of all these slices stacked together.
The ability to examine both the whole loaf and the individual slices offers physicians a much more exact tool for diagnosis and treatment. For example, using SPECT, a doctor often can differentiate a patient suffering from incurable Alzheimer's disease from other treatable disorders such as depression, stroke or brain tumor. The only definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer's disease is still through brain biopsy or autopsy but the SPECT brain scan often gives strong support to the clinically suspected diagnosis.
SPECT brain imaging also offers great promise in detecting impending strokes in patients who may only be exhibiting mild pre-stroke symptoms. Recent studies utilized SPECT to investigate biochemical changes in the brain caused by alcohol and substance abuse. One important study discovered that drug-induced brain damage is reversible if drugs are eliminated --a compelling reason for addicts to seek help.
POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY (PET) - In PET, a cyclotron is used to produce positron-emitting radionuclides such as carbon, fluorine, nitrogen and oxygen --all naturally-occurring elements in the body. For example, fluorine-18 can be attached to a biochemical substance such as glucose (a type of sugar) to form a radiotracer that can be immediately metabolized by the body. The big advantage that PET offers over other imaging procedures is this ability to demonstrate actual biochemical activity as it is happening.
After inhalation or infusion, these radiotracers travel through the subject's bloodstream to the area being studied, where they undergo a biochemical reaction as part of body's normal metabolism and emit signals displayed as an image on a video screen according to the amount of biochemical activity in each area.
By learning the patterns of biochemical activity in normal brain function, for example, Nuclear Medicine physicians and scientists can detect abnormal brain patterns that occur in various medical disorders. One surgeon used a PET scan to help him localize and remove the abnormal area in the brain of a child with severe epilepsy. The child is now seizure-free, experiencing only minor disabilities.
PET can also be used after a heart attack to decide if a by-pass operation would be successful or if a more-drastic heart transplant is required. A patient in Phoenix who was scheduled for a heart transplant learned through PET that a by-pass was possible. Five weeks after a five-vessel by-pass operation, he walked out of the hospital, saving himself the possibility of organ rejection, infection and other complications. On the other hand, if a surgeon performs a by-pass operation only to discover that the heart is beyond repair, he must reschedule the patient for a heart transplant. Through PET, the correct surgical procedure often can be scheduled.
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