LIBERTY TOWNSHIP | With a glide down the throat, a diagnostic tool at Porter Regional Hospital can detect abnormalities in and around the gastrointestinal tract and determine the stage of certain cancers.
The tool, called endoscopic ultrasound, is an advanced version of a traditional scope.
"Regular scopes are to look inside the GI tract, and the ultrasound is to look through it," said Dr. Rajeev Tummuru, a gastroenterologist at Porter Regional Hospital.
Unlike a traditional scope used for upper endoscopies or colonoscopies, the tool has built-in ultrasound.
"I'm using a specialized scope that has a camera and ultrasound on the tip of the probe," Tummuru said.
The scope passes over the patient's tongue and into the stomach, and the image appears on a monitor. A basic diagnostic-imaging procedure takes about 30 minutes, but more in-depth treatment, such as cyst drainage, can take more than an hour.
Porter began offering the procedure when Tummuru was hired in August. The training to operate the equipment added a year to his schooling, because it is so specialized.
Tummuru, who grew up in Valparaiso, wanted to return to Northwest Indiana to practice medicine, but he needed a hospital that would acquire the endoscopic ultrasound.
"That was a big part of me choosing to come here," he said. "I said I would come if Porter would attain the equipment."
Before his arrival, patients were referred to Chicago or Indianapolis for the procedure.
"There was a need here," he said.
Most of his patients need general GI treatment, such as endoscopies and colonoscopies. Tummuru blocks off time one day a week to treat patients whose health requires the endoscopic ultrasound.
"It's a closer way of imaging structures in or around the GI tract," he said.
The procedure procures crisp, close-up images of areas just outside the GI tract, including the pancreas, stomach and rectum. If a small biopsy or tissue sample is needed, the equipment can give the precise location, Tummuru said.
Among its abilities, the tool can evaluate masses and cysts of the pancreas, study nodules and bumps in the intestinal wall and study the muscles of the lower rectum and anal canal to determine the reason for fecal incontinence.
It can help determine which stage certain cancers are in, namely esophageal, rectal and pancreatic cancers.
"Because I can see much more detail of the tumor mass itself, I can determine the stage," Tummuru said.
Porter Health Care System CEO Jonathan Nalli said he is pleased the hospital offers the technology.
“Previously, patients needing this procedure had to travel to Chicago or Indianapolis," he said. "But now with Porter offering EUS, patients do not need to leave Northwest Indiana and may receive this new procedure in the comfort and convenience of their home hospital."