BVI Now Offers Both General Diagnostic and Vascular Ultrasound

VCU Baird Kidney ultrasound

The VCU Health Baird Vascular Institute is excited to begin offering both general diagnostic and vascular ultrasound services. The ultrasound technology that gives you the first look at a baby in the womb is the technology that has transformed the practice of medicine — offering a high-resolution, live picture of what is going on in your body and inside your veins. Using ultrasound imaging, we can take a close-up, precise and live-action view of bodily organs, veins, arteries, and the blood moving throughout your body.

Ultrasound is ultrasafe. Unlike ionizing radiation that is used in x-rays or CT scans, ultrasound technology utilizes soundwaves to look inside the body. This means that ultrasound is a very safe and effective way to perform diagnostic imaging. Now with general diagnostic ultrasound we are able to perform:

  • Abdominal scans
  • Kidney scans
  • Testicular ultrasound
  • Thyroid scans
  • Liver doppler…and much more

Why BVI?

Quick turnaround

We know that in most cases, you are anxious to get results. Our ultrasound services are provided with that in mind. We have a flexible schedule and will work to get you in as soon as possible and we are often able to provide same-day appointments.

Convenience

Our state-of-the-art facility offers customized care tailored to the individual needs of each patient – set in a warm and friendly environment located conveniently just off Interstate 195 in the near West End. To set up an appointment, simply call our front desk at 804.828.2600 for immediate service.

Expertise Ultrasound accredited

We’ve brought together leading interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons to provide the Greater Richmond and Central Virginia region with the very best patient experience possible. We offer a level of medical expertise, experience and knowledge usually found only in a major academic medical center – all in a convenient outpatient setting.

It’s flu season – what cancer patients should know

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Cancer patients are one of the most vulnerable populations when it comes to contagious diseases like the flu. Even otherwise healthy people are left miserable by the flu, but it can be extremely agonizing for people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients.

Flu season is at its worst December through February, but starts as soon as early fall. Most people affected by a case of the flu recover within a couple of weeks at home on their own. However, cancer patients are at an increased risk of complications from the flu, and need to take flu season seriously.

For cancer patients, the biggest concern is the high risk of serious complications if they do get the flu. Not only that, but often in those with weakened immune systems, the flu doesn’t always present itself with the traditional set of symptoms like fever, muscle aches and chills. If you have a compromised immune system because of cancer and start experiencing any flu-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat or coughing — and especially a fever — see a doctor immediately.

There are a few common-sense things you can do to decrease your likelihood of catching the flu, such as:

  1. Avoid crowded places during flu season. This doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit all winter, just use common sense. If you must make a trip to the store, don’t go on a Saturday afternoon when it’s most packed. Chose a time where it won’t be as busy.
  2. Wash your hands. We can’t say this enough – and if soap and water isn’t handy, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel.
  3. Get a flu shot. We understand this can be a scary thought, but it’s important. According to the CDC, “People with cancer or a history of cancer should receive the seasonal flu shot. People who live with or care for cancer patients and survivors also should be vaccinated against seasonal flu.”
  4. If you think you’ve been exposed, call your doctor. The CDC also says, “If you have received cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy within the last month, or have a blood or lymphatic form of cancer, call your doctor immediately if you have been within six feet (1.8m) of someone known or suspected to have the flu. Your doctor may give you antiviral drugs to help prevent the flu. If you have cancer and have not received treatment within the last month, or you have had cancer in the past but are cancer-free now, and you have had close contact with someone known or suspected to have the flu, call your doctor and ask if you should receive antiviral drugs.

With some planning, it’s possible to avoid the flu and any complications, even while undergoing cancer treatment.

 

 

What is a DVT?

Baird IVC Filter

Many of the terms that are used when describing vascular diseases and conditions can be very confusing, especially for those seeing them or hearing them for the first time. We make every effort to explain your diagnosis and recommended treatment options as clearly and understandably as possible, but during your visits or while reading our website or doing research, you may come across new terminology.

One condition we haven’t talked at length about is DVT, or deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that usually forms in the extremities (arms or legs) and if untreated, the clot can break off, travel through your bloodstream and lead to a pulmonary embolus, or blood clot in the lung. This is a very serious and potentially life-threatening condition that may require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of DVT include swelling of the affected arm or leg, pain or tenderness, and warmth in the area. If any of these symptoms are noticed, it is crucial that you seek medical advice immediately. However, it’s also possible that a DVT can occur with no symptoms. Usually, a vascular ultrasound is used to determine if a DVT is present or not and will be ordered by your health care provider. If detected, a DVT can be treated medically with anti-coagulants (i.e. “blood-thinners”) and in some severe or urgent cases, through invasive procedures to remove or dissolve the clot.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “deep vein thrombosis can develop if you have certain medical conditions that affect how your blood clots. It can also happen if you don’t move for a long time, such as after surgery or an accident, or when you’re confined to bed.”

There are some practical steps that you can take to help avoid the likelihood that you will develop a DVT.

  • Maintain a health weight – being overweight will tend to increase your risk for developing DVTs
  • Keep moving – exercise regularly and stay active.
  • Avoid long periods of remaining still.
  • Wear compression socks or stockings that are designed to enhance blood flow.

DVT is also associated with other vascular issues such as varicose veins and peripheral vascular disease. If you have varicose veins, they may also be a sign of a blockage in deeper which is DVT.

We have the latest in technology, techniques and medications to treat vascular disease, ease your pain and help you get back into good health. Call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

What is an arteriovenous malformation?

VCU Baird arteriovenous malformation

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are defects in the vascular system, most easily described as an abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins.

The vascular system includes arteries, veins, and capillaries. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to other organs; veins carry oxygen-depleted blood back to the heart. Capillaries connect the arteries and veins. With an AVM, the tangle of arteries and veins disrupts normal blood flow and oxygen circulation.

According to the Mayo Clinic, when an AVM disrupts this critical process, the surrounding tissues may not get enough oxygen, and the affected arteries and veins can weaken and rupture. If the AVM is in the brain and ruptures, it can cause bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage), stroke or brain damage. While AVMs in other areas of the body are generally not a serious health concern, they can often be inconvenient, painful and unsightly.

AVMs can happen anywhere, but they are more common in the brain or spinal cord. Most people with brain or spinal cord AVMs have few, if any, major symptoms. Sometimes they can cause seizures or headaches.

It’s not clear what causes of AVMs. However, researchers believe most people are born with them, but they can occasionally form later in life. While it’s a rare condition to be passed down among families, there are several rare genetic diseases that are associated with AVMs.

AVMs treated at Baird Vascular Institute at VCU Health include those of located on the extremities as well as various locations on the body including the pelvic region. The Interventional Radiologists and Vascular Surgeons at BVI are well equipped to treat these AVMs. Our capabilities also allow us to handle the primary treatment of AVMs that once may have required prolonged hospitalizations. Today, our image-guided expertise makes outpatient care of these conditions possible. Depending on the location and severity of the AVM, we can generally treat these on an outpatient basis by injecting a sclerosing agent – similar to how we might treat some varicose veins. This has the effect of essentially collapsing the vein(s) and having it stick together which prevents blood flow into that area. The body then naturally reroutes blood flow through other vessels to compensate and to keep surrounding tissue healthy.

If you are concerned and think that you may have an AVM, or you have recently been diagnosed with an AVM and would like to speak with us about your options, give us a call at 804-828-2600.

 

 

What are the risks of an IVC filter?

baird IVC filter risk

One of the services we offer our patients is IV filter placements. Inferior vena cava (IVC) filters are small metal devices placed in patients at risk of developing blood clots or deep vein thrombosis in the legs or pelvis; the clots can break off and cause pulmonary embolism, the lodging of an embolus, such as a blood clot, in the lungs. Your doctor may recommend an IVC filter for conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), pulmonary embolism, trauma immobility or recent surgery or childbirth.

Recently, IVC filters have been a topic of conversation on whether they’re safe or not. We talked to Dr. Brian Strife about IVC filters and here’s what he had to say.

“IVC filters have been placed for the last several decades, developed initially in the 1960’s,” he said. “Originally, they were designed as permanent devices, meaning the filter would be placed in the patient’s vein, and it was designed to remain in place for the life of the patient.”

In the last few years, retrievable filters were developed. They have a hook or some other component to the filter where a physician could grab it and remove it. “Over time, what we learned is that some of these filters were prone to develop problems in a very small number of them,” said Dr. Strife. “The problems included migration, or movement of the filter, fracture or breaking of the filter, and then clotting of the filter.” Those are the 3 main complications that we often hear about with inferior vena cava filters.

“When the filter itself develops a blood clot,” he continued, “it can block the main vein, the IVC, this can lead to significant pain and swelling in the lower extremities. Also, the filters themselves, being made out of metal, over time the metal can stress and fatigue. The filter can break, pieces of the filter can migrate into the patient and damage adjacent organs. Very rarely, pieces of the filter can break off and go to the heart and lungs.”

The filters, whether they are permanent or retrievable types, are meant to stay in the patient for a long time. The filters are made out of stainless steel or some kind of metal alloy that is designed to withstand years of being inside a human body. It’s a rare occurrence that the filters have any problems at all.

“Although these complications are extremely uncommon,” said Dr. Strife. “It is a source of patient anxiety and we often receive a number of phone calls from patients asking if they should have their filter removed to avoid these complications.”

“In 2010, the FDA recommended that physicians who placed these filters, and physicians who follow patients with these filters, make an attempted to consider IVC filter retrieval when the filter is no longer needed,” he continued. “Sometimes that’s a tough question to answer, because we don’t necessarily know which patients are best suited to have a filter in for the rest of their lives. When a patient calls our office and says ‘I have an inferior vena cava filter and I’d like to have it removed,’ we typically have the patient come in for a consultation, discuss why they have the filter in the first place, and try to make an informed decision on whether retrieval is appropriate for them or not. Sometimes, that’s a very easy question to answer, sometimes we need to do additional tests and consult with other physicians before making that decision.”

If you need an IVC filter, our would like to talk to us about one you currently have, call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

Conscious Sedation

baird conscious sedation

One of the first questions that our patients ask us when they are scheduled for a procedure is, “Will I feel pain?” This is an understandable concern for someone getting ready to undergo a minimally invasive procedure, especially if it’s their first time having a medical procedure performed. Minimizing pain and discomfort is one of our primary concerns here at BVI. We want to do everything possible to ensure that our patients have a positive experience during their visit which is why we use conscious sedation during many of our procedures.

What is conscious sedation?

Conscious sedation is when a combination of medicines is administered to help you relax (a sedative) and to block pain (an anesthetic) during a medical procedure. Conscious sedation is safe and effective for people who need a minimally invasive procedure. Here at BVI, these medicines are given through an intravenous line (IV) by one of our nurses under the direct supervision of a physician. You will begin to feel drowsy and relaxed very quickly. You may fall asleep, but you will wake up easily to respond to people in the room. You may be able to respond to verbal cues. You will be monitored throughout the entire procedure by our medical team to make sure that your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels stay within safe limits.

The medicine will wear off quickly and recovery after the procedure is generally very fast. After conscious sedation, you may feel drowsy and not remember much about your procedure including any associated pain. Afterwards, you will feel sleepy and may have a headache or feel sick to your stomach. During recovery, your finger will be clipped to a special device (pulse oximeter) to check the oxygen levels in your blood and your blood pressure and heart rate will be monitored. You should be able to go home 1 to 2 hours after your procedure.

Is conscious sedation the same as general anesthesia?

No. General anesthesia (also known as deep sedation) is when you are administered drugs that put you in a totally unconscious state. Under general anesthesia, you have no awareness of the procedure or your surroundings at all. General anesthesia is usually reserved for more complex and lengthy procedures or when your provider deems in necessary. General anesthesia also comes with higher associated risks. Only licensed anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists are able to administer general anesthesia. Recovery times are usually longer than conscious sedation and may present more unpleasant side-effects. BVI does NOT use general anesthesia.

Before the Procedure

Be sure to tell us if you are or could be pregnant. We also want to know what medicines you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription. A day or two before the procedure, one of our nurses will contact you to go over pre-procedural instructions. This generally includes:

  • Not eating or drinking six hours prior to the procedure
  • Be sure to have someone accompany you to the procedure. You will not be in any shape to drive home
  • Discussion of any lab work that will be required prior to your procedure
  • Arrive at the time instructed

You will be given an instruction packet with more detailed information prior to your procedure. And as always, if you have any questions you can give us a call at (804) 828-2600 to talk with one of our providers. Conscious sedation is a safe and effective way to minimize pain and anxiety for our patients.

4 questions you may have about ports

VCU Health Baird Port

Many conditions, such as cancer treatment, long-term IV medication or kidney dialysis, require frequent or constant access to your veins. Repeated needle sticks in the same area can be hard on you and hard on your veins. That’s why we specialize in placing vein access ports, so that doctors don’t have to stick you with a needle or restart an IV line every time you need treatment. That makes care easier — and your life easier.

For long term IV access, placing a semi-permanent catheter such as a “port-a-cath,” chemotherapy port or IV access port into a large vein in the upper arm or neck can make treatment easier for patients undergoing treatments that require frequent or constant vein access such as:

  • Chemotherapy or anti-cancer drug infusions
  • Hemodialysis
  • Long-term intravenous antibiotic treatment
  • Long-term intravenous feeding
  • Repeated drawing of blood samples

Unlike most other types of catheters, a port-a-cath is implanted completely underneath the skin. This type of port allows you to bathe and swim without the risk of infection. Port-a-caths can remain in place for months or even years.

If you’ve been told you need a port, you may have questions – here are 4 questions people want to know.

Is having a port painful? Having a device implanted under your skin can seem frightening to many people as is concern for ongoing pain. As with any medical procedure, you can expect some pain after the insertion, but ongoing pain is minimal, and relative to each individual patient’s level of pain tolerance. We talked to Dr. Shep Morano about ports. “You’ll notice that you can see and maybe even feel the reservoir of port area under the skin,” said Dr. Morano, “you can also sometimes feel and see part of the catheter as it runs over the clavicle and into the vein into the base of the neck.” For most people, he continued, “They don’t even notice the port after a while, it just becomes part of their body and it doesn’t bother them or even notice it that much.”

What is a cancer port pillow? A cancer port small pillow with a strap is sometimes used to cover seat belts, purse handles, cross body bags, or other straps that may rub against the port. They can be handmade or found at several online retailers.

Can my port get infected? Just like any other medical device, certain precautions must be taken to care for your port. We wrote a blog post a while back on port care, but the best thing to remember is follow the instructions from your physician and care team, and be sure to contact us if anything seems out of the ordinary.

What is a cancer port tattoo? When we went to research questions related to ports, a cancer port tattoo was something that was frequently searched online. Like many life experiences, some people commemorate their cancer journey through body art like tattoos. A cancer port tattoo is simply a tattoo that uses artwork to cover or minimize the appearance of the scar where the port was placed. Whether or not to have one is a deeply personal choice, but many cancer survivors view their tattoo as a badge of strength, or a symbol of renewal and hope.

If you need a port, or have questions, call us at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.