BRISTOL – State and local leaders joined Wellmont Health System officials today to break ground on a 2,600-square-foot addition to Bristol Regional Medical Center. Once complete, the addition will house the Southeast’s first CyberKnife Stereotactic Radiosurgery System, a state-of-the-art robotic system that delivers powerful radiation with pinpoint accuracy to kill tumors.

“This expansion will bring an unparalleled level of lifesaving medical technology to the people of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia,” Dave Crockett, chairman of the Bristol Regional board of directors, said of the $4 million project. “Tumors that once were inoperable can now be treated. People who once were without hope can now hope again.”

Presently, just 10 health systems in the United States operate a CyberKnife. Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Md., and Georgetown University are the only East Coast providers of the technology. The Wellmont CyberKnife is expected to be operational by spring. PPB Co. of Louisville, Ky., is overseeing the design and construction of the cancer center addition.

“The CyberKnife delivers powerful radiation treatment with great accuracy,” Bristol Regional President Bart Hove said. “This technology will greatly enhance our treatment options for patients with tumors and will enable our physicians to save lives.”

Purchase of the CyberKnife technology was made possible by a $2 million donation from Jay D. and Lorraine Nicewonder of Bristol. The Nicewonders’ donation represents the largest gift in Wellmont’s history.

Manufactured by Accuray Inc., the CyberKnife employs image-guided technology similar to that used by the Pentagon to target cruise missiles. A lightweight linear accelerator attached to a robotic arm generates up to 100 beams of radiation that attack diseased tissue.

Because the radiation is delivered with sub-millimeter accuracy, tumors and other abnormalities receive a concentrated dose of radiation, but the impact on surrounding normal tissue is minimized. The CyberKnife allows physicians to treat tumors throughout the body – including tumors that once would have been inoperable. Treatment is completely non-invasive, requires no anesthesia and is usually completed on an outpatient basis.


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