"The happy needle” that saved Paul’s life

Four years ago, Paul’s family doctor found two cancerous growths on Paul’s liver and referred him for treatment to Dr. Morris Sherman, a liver specialist at University Health Network. Dr. Sherman arranged for the growths to be treated by an interventional radiologist using a procedure called transarterial chemoembolization (TACE). In this procedure, a catheter (thin plastic tube) is inserted through the large artery in the groin into the hepatic artery in the liver to embolize (block) the arteries that feed the tumour and inject chemotherapy drugs to kill the tumour cells.

Paul and his wife Janet

The procedure was successful, but because of the risk of recurrence, Paul was referred to Dr. Jeffrey Jaskolka, a Mount Sinai interventional radiologist, for close monitoring of his liver.  Every few months, Paul returns to Mount Sinai for screening, in order to detect any new growths at the earliest possible moment.    

“Dr. Jaskolka has been like a son to me,” says Paul, now 73. “I can’t say enough about what a wonderful doctor he is.  He’s treated me very well.  The nurses who give me the ‘happy needle’ and the recovery nurses have all treated me well.”

Over the years, Paul has had new tumours, which, thanks to frequent monitoring, have been caught early and successfully treated.  Each time, Dr. Jaskolka uses a minimally invasive technique called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which relies on imaging equipment to guide a needle-like probe (what Paul jokingly calls “the happy needle”) inside the tumor, where radiofrequency waves pass through the probe and increase the temperature within the tumour tissue, destroying it. Unlike the TACE procedure, which required a short hospital stay, Paul now comes in for treatment and goes home the same day, where he can recover in comfort.

In addition to shortening or eliminating hospital stays for patients, interventional radiology procedures like RFA also minimize incisions, reduce risk of bleeding and other complications, speed recovery, decrease costs and improve long-term health outcomes.  Moreover, these techniques can be used to target and treat a wide range of conditions, from tumours like Paul’s, to bleeding, infections and blockages in nearly every organ system. Mount Sinai performs around 3,000 interventional radiology treatments a year.

This state-of-the-art, imaging-driven care has been crucial in keeping Paul’s condition in check.

“If these growths were not found and treated, they would continue to grow,” says Janet, Paul’s wife of 53 years.  “I don’t know what we’d do without the interventional radiology.  It’s very important in maintaining control over a condition that could otherwise run amok.”

While Paul is one of many patients that depend on medical imaging technology to monitor chronic conditions that require ongoing care, medical imaging touches nearly every one of our patients.  With nearly 200,000 medical imaging procedures — including X-ray, MRI, SPECT and CT scans — conducted annually, more than 95% of our patients benefit from newer, more precise imaging equipment and techniques which are fueling innovative diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

Recently, Sinai Health System received two exceptionally generous gifts that will help ensure that patients throughout the GTA will have access to the most advanced imaging technologies.  A $2 million gift from Sydney and Florence Cooper for a new interventional radiology treatment room and the upgrade of an existing room at Mount Sinai Hospital will allow the hospital to double its capacity to meet the growing need to offer patients like Paul this treatment option.  In addition, a new $5 million investment in medical imaging by Warren and Debbie Kimel and Ron and Vanessa Kimel and their respective families, will help provide innovative imaging equipment and facilities in The Kimel Family Centre for Advanced Medical Imaging at Sinai Health System, part of The Joint Department of Medical Imaging that also includes Princess Margaret, Toronto General, Toronto Rehab, Toronto Western and Women’s College hospitals.  

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Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation

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