La Paz, July 1 (EFE). The start-up of a nuclear medicine center in the Bolivian city of El Alto at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters has allowed Bolivia to take its first steps in the application of studies and nuclear cardiology diagnostics, as does Argentine cardiologist Ricardo Geronazo. explained by Efe.
In the process, the El Alto Center for Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy, which is dependent on the state-owned Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN), has partnered with the Argentine Nuclear Diagnostic Center Foundation and led the first trials conducted in the Geronazo Bolivian region. doing. ,
Last March, the first SPECT/CT study was conducted using a “hybrid” device that combines the techniques of traditional nuclear medicine with computed tomography, Geronazzo explained in an interview with Efe.
“We are now working on the development of human capital training, a protocol required for a variety of studies,” and during this week some patients were tested with a view to progressively increasing the number of meditations by the end of the year, the expert said. indicated.
Nuclear cardiology, which has a history of at least half a century in Latin America, is the method within nuclear medicine “that deals with the study of the heart by means of radioisotopes,” he explained.
One of its functions within diagnostic imaging is to determine myocardial perfusion, that is, “cardiac circulation during rest and stress”, which is used to diagnose arteriosclerotic coronary disease, which is “the leading cause of death in the world”. According to Geronazzo.
“This myocardial perfusion study has the uniqueness of being able to predict the presence of a heart attack, for example, and the diagnosis of what we call myocardial ischemia. In other words, predict the clinical presence of ischemic disease. And try to avoid death or an event such as a heart attack or angina pectoris,” he explained.
Precisely this myocardial perfusion study is the first step in the nuclear medicine services offered at the center of El Alto.
To undergo these studies, the patient must present after fasting for four hours and stop taking medication that lowers the heart rate, although the latter depends on the decision of his family doctor, he said. Explained.
The patient must undergo a controlled stress test “and at that maximum effort a radioactive material is injected” that is technetium 99 “attached to a molecule called sestamibi”.
“It functions so that this radioactive material is fixed inside the cardiac cell and we can see all the cells that are viable”, Geronazzo explained.
The test will help detect myocardial ischemia, “which is a risk marker that allows us to predict heart attacks” and “heart prevention.”
Or, if myocardial infarction has already occurred, the magnitude of this can be looked at and “residual ischemia that may be present to see whether intervention or reintegration is necessary on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
The studies done within nuclear cardiology are “functional, they are based on radioisotopes to develop a molecular image, that is, you can’t see the function and anatomy of the heart.”
“And today it is known that the prediction of cardiovascular risk is function rather than body composition,” explained the cardiologist.
According to Geronazzo, radioactivity is used for studies with radioisotopes, “but in minimal doses that do not pose a risk to the health of those being evaluated.”
But these evaluations are “not for everyone” and should be seen on a case-by-case basis whether it is necessary to subject the patient to this type of study.
“It is not for anyone who wants to study nuclear cardiology, they should be referred by their general practitioner or their cardiologist to remove any doubts about the clinical question, (whether) ischemia Whether or not there is a heart attack, we have amyloidosis or other pathologies that appear and we can make a diagnosis using these molecular images,” he explained.
The cardiologist stressed that the El Alto center has three components, care, teaching and research, of which the first two are already underway.
The expert predicted “a promising future” for the El Alto center, as the clinical method being implemented there is “going to change people’s quality of life” by being able to prevent heart attacks.
He also emphasized that the results released by the Center will not be “just a piece of paper”, but will be with the support of a working group that will help doctors “make a decision”.
Geronazzo came to Bolivia to explain and demonstrate the techniques, capabilities and benefits of nuclear technology for the diagnosis of heart disease.
(c) EFE Agency