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1 Night, 176 X-rays, 151 CT Scans, 1 Radiologist

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Monster tornadoes slashed across northern Alabama on April 27, leaving a horror-movie scene of obliterated buildings and broken bodies — including broken young bodies.

The storms struck in the early evening, shredding some of Birmingham’s northern suburbs. (To get an idea of their malevolence — there’s no other word that fits — click here.) Minutes later, patients began flooding into Children’s Hospital of Alabama, in the middle of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) campus just south of downtown. They kept coming for hours.

The radiology department completed 176 X-rays and 151 head, neck, chest, abdomen, and pelvis CT scans through the night. The previous one-night CT record was 30.

The sole radiologist reading all those images was Daniel W. Young, MD, a pediatric radiologist at Children’s and a clinical professor of radiology and pediatrics at the UAB School of Medicine. He described the frantic pace in an interview with Health Imaging News:

We had a patient on and off the scanner every 12 minutes all night long, and reports were out within 15 minutes.

He couldn’t have done it, Dr. Young said, without the department’s 64-slice helical scanner, the RIS/PACS system, and voice-recognition technology. He was too modest to mention his own skill and dedication.

Altogether, the emergency department treated 54 seriously traumatized patients, along with dozens of others who suffered less-serious damage. Children arrived with burst fractures of the lumbar spine, intracranial hemorrhages, and other major injuries. As ambulance after ambulance descended on the hospital, doctors started doing triage in the parking lot. They had to order CT studies so hurriedly that they often listed no patient history other than “disaster patient.”

“We had a textbook of major trauma on April 27,” Dr. Young said. “Making the diagnosis as quickly as possible was the name of the game.”

Under even extreme stress, teams of trained, caring professionals can do remarkable things. Dr. Young may deflect credit to the machines. But we all know where it truly belongs.

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One Response to “1 Night, 176 X-rays, 151 CT Scans, 1 Radiologist”

  1. Larry P on July 1st, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Really? 151 CT scans one every 12 minutes would require 30 hours with one scanner. I wouldn’t place much value on any radiologists interpretations in that time interval. Sounds like a $300,000 rip-off. Someone should investigate.