Why I am Glad Medicine is Not Like Education

I have been battling kidney stones ever since Thanksgiving and they don't want to leave. However, there is something I am thankful for after two trips to the emergency room, one trip to the doctor, untold gallons of water consumed, and lots of pain medication. I am thankful the medical profession does not treat technology like education sometimes does. If it did I might be dead!

When I was in college I worked as a patient transporter in a hospital's radiology department which allowed me to observe various exams and equipment. Back in those days, doctors ordered an Intravenous Pyelogram (IVP) for patients complaining of kidney stones. This exam involved injecting a contrast dye of iodine into the patient that would eventually pass into the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. Wherever the dye stopped, that is where the stone usually was. A series of x-rays were taken over time to track the flow of dye through the body. There are some risks with this procedure. The biggest was the contrast dye could cause serious, even fatal reactions to those who were allergic to iodine. Another negative is the exposure to radiation in the groin area with the series of x-rays requried for the exam. While this exposure was usually not threating, you always want to reduce exposure to any radition. I had this procedure done the first time I had kidney stones over 8 years ago.

This time doctors ordered a Computer Tomography (CT or CAT) Scan. This non-invasive procedure can render a 3-dimensional picture of the targeted area of the body, which in my case showed exactly where the stone was and exactly how large it is. Due to non-invasive nature of the procedure, no potentially harmful chemicals are put into the body. Also, CT-Scan technology has improved so much better that better images can be taken with less exposure with x-ray radiation. Training using CT-Scan equipment must have gotten more widespread over the years. When I worked in Radiology, the department only had about 4 specially trained technologists who operated the equipment. For a CT-Scan to be done in the early hours of a holiday or the evening of a weekend, it required calling in a technologists for life or death situations. More routine procedures would have to wait for normal business hours. This time with my kidney stones I was given CT-Scans at 4:00 AM on Thanksgiving and 8:00 PM on a Saturday with a technologists already on site.

Obviously I lived through one IVP but I would never recommend it. Fortunately there is something better. This is because the medical profession is striving to produce better procedures which save more lives, provide more comfort to the patient, and hopefully lower the costs for healthcare. Imagine where education might be if it was as willing to adopt new technology like healthcare.