Medical Imaging at the 2012 Summer Olympics

While I tuned into the initial athletic action of the 2012 Summer Olympics, some of the first images I saw were of a cyclist being taken “somewhere” for X-rays after sustaining injuries from a crash.  Being both nosy and an X-ray technologist, I decided to look into where this athlete might be heading, and also what kind of setup was in place at the Olympic Village.

In my life before MD Buyline, I gained experience in Sports Medicine X-rays while working as a contracted radiographer at an NFL stadium in the late 90s; so I knew that medical imaging would be readily available to the Olympic athletes to some degree.   However, after brushing up on a few updates and press releases, I found out that the depth and breadth of imaging modalities located in London’s Polyclinics today, which are provided by GE Healthcare, are a far cry from the portable X-ray unit, film processor and view box I used sixteen years ago during the Atlanta Falcons’ home games.  Despite this, the goal has remained the same:  get the medical imaging procedure done quickly and accurately, get the results to the right people and get the athlete back in the game if the results support that decision.

I took a look into the Olympic Village Polyclinic via and saw that through their corporate sponsorship and as an official medical partner with the Olympics, GE is providing the whole gamut of imaging modalities:  X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, and CT. The Discovery XR656 X-ray units, with which we see a lot of activity and interest from MD Buyline members, are being utilized for primary radiographic procedures.  There’s no doubt that the cyclist I referenced earlier would have had extremity X-rays done on this particular unit.   Let’s not forget that it’s not just bone fractures that are being imaged in the Polyclinic, but it’s quite customary (that even sounds British) for an Olympic physician to order a chest or abdominal X-ray if an athlete is experiencing a cough or flu-like symptoms.  Dehydration is obviously also a huge concern within Sports Medicine and radiographs are commonly used in conjunction with laboratory tests for a diagnosis.

I found it interesting that Olympic medical officials estimate that over 60 daily MRI procedures will be performed using GE’s Optima and Discovery MR platforms (1.5T or 3.0T strength magnets).  These are wide-bore systems which can better accommodate the larger patient size of many Olympians competing this summer and will be able to efficiently image various muscle, tendon and ligament injuries.  The Discovery 750HD CT Scanners are in place to image hairline and stress fractures not easily seen with simple X-rays.  In addition, these CT scanners will be put to the test when used for athletes who are not eligible for MRI exams due to metal implants.

Another bit of information that is very important to remember is that the Paralympics follows the Olympics and many of those athletes would by default need to be imaged in CT rather than MRI due to prosthetics, metal implants, etc.

Meaningful Use has also crossed the pond this year as this will be the first time in the history of the Games that paper charts will not be used for United States athletes.  GE’s Centricity Practice Solution has been implemented and will document all medical related incidences and transactions based on decisions made by the USOC (United States Olympic Committee).  Furthermore, all medical images from the U.S. athletes will be stored in a PACS solution as well.  Having all of this data captured electronically will provide an invaluable opportunity to extract reports and trending of injuries and treatment across the various athletes and their respective sports.  Who knows, maybe this data will someday be used to alter or replace key competitions based on injury report trends both in the short and long-term?

Enjoy the 2012 London Games and feel free to comment below or contact me directly if you’d like to chat further!

Lori Webb, BAAS R.T. (R)
Lori Webb, BAAS R.T. (R), Clinical Analyst — Ms. Webb joined MD Buyline in 2008 and has an extensive 25-year background in radiology. She assists hospitals and healthcare facilities with purchasing considerations, product research and comparisons on analog and digital radiographic equipment and radiology IT systems, as well as radiology support items. Ms. Webb graduated from El Centro College with an associate degree in applied sciences (radiologic technology) and a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from Lamar University. She is registered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.