Friday, July 12, 2013

San Roque

I switched to a new hospital this week; San Roque. It's a 7 story complex that has every sort of patient and specialization I can think of and it makes Rawson look like, well, like an under-funded teaching hospital. Then again, some of Rawson's walls are literally in the process of falling down, so the bar is not set that high. 

I'm excited to be somewhere new, and really glad to have such flexibility in where I'm allowed to shadow. That said I have since discovered the disadvantage of my new position is that I'm never going to get to know the doctors very well because the hospital is set up to run on 24-hour, once a week shifts. This also means that I've been stuck in the same small talk conversation every day of the week (Richard Dean Anderson knows my pain). But, those are small complaints, I'm glad to be somewhere new. 

Wednesday was my first day and it mostly consisted of a tour of the hospital and shadowing the ER  which was less exciting than expected, but still interesting to see the differences between hospitals. I spent the past two days in the tomography department, which means I've been hanging out with the med techs and helping with CAT scans. I think it's the most interesting thing I've seen while here; a CAT scan is basically a computerized compilation of hundreds of different x-rays. Each x-ray represents a 'slice' of your body, and because they are taken in 3 different planes, the compilation gives doctors a 3-D model. And not just of bone structures, but of blood vessels and musculature as well. AND because you can choose to show the image plane-by-plane you can see the inside of a patients' body from literally ANY view imaginable. Oh, and it all happens in less than 10 seconds. I spent most of the day yesterday just playing with the program, and today helping bring patients in. I wish I could have taken a screen shot of the software they use because it's incredible. 

One of the patients today was a 30 year-old man who was having shoulder trouble. He came in, we administered the contrast, he sat down and we started the scan. Within 10 minutes (it takes a bit of time to manipulate the images to see exactly what you're looking for) one of the doctors had a 3-D model of the bones of his shoulder and it showed a partially destroyed scapula and a nearly non-existent head of his humorous. He had severe osteoporosis (strange in a 30 year old man) but it was amazing to be able to see it so clearly and so quickly. 

That said, CT scans are commonplace in all hospitals in the US, and although the technology has advanced tremendously it's been around in since the late 1970s. The machine I was working with was the first in the province of Cordoba, and according to the techs I was working with, it's only been within the past few years that the Hospital of Cordoba has bought a second one to serve an entire city of people. I find that hard to believe considering that in the U.S. CAT scans are a relatively inexpensive diagnostic technology, especially considering the level of clarity and speed. But, I also know that the taxes levied against all foreign products have prevented Rawson and U of Cordoba from getting technology, so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised.


  1. I wonder if 3-D printing will someday apply to CAT scan machines as well? thereby enabling countries like Argentina to create accessibility to items that are currently too expensive to import because of the taxes ... Your fall internship working with 3-D printing should be really interesting now!

  2. It's interesting that you say that- one of the engineers I was talking to at a language meet-up night a few weeks ago was telling me that 3-D printing was still pretty much inaccessible to Argentinians, even at large universities, because the printers are too expensive. I told him that the one my lab is using is less than $1,500 USD and he said that between bad conversation rates and the extreme taxation, even $1,500 is a whole lot for a research lab here. I find that hard to believe considering the budgets for schools like UT in the U.S., but maybe that just goes to show that I don't understand the context of how things work down here.

  3. BUT! I do think that you're right- definitely if they had the ability to produce their own products using a 3-D printer (like the microscope my lab is looking to make) it could open up tons of possibilities for all sorts of researchers down here!