KINGSPORT – Wellmont Health System will be the first healthcare provider in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to utilize a positron emission tomography scanner – a state-of-the-art diagnostic tool that assists physicians in the management of patients with cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders.

The Tennessee Health Facilities Commission today granted Wellmont approval to lease a mobile PET scanner, which will be used at both Bristol Regional Medical Center and Holston Valley Medical Center.

Relying on sophisticated imaging technology, the PET scanner will provide Wellmont physicians specific, reliable data that can eliminate the need for multiple diagnostic tests and help reduce unnecessary biopsies and surgeries.

“The technology is remarkable,” said Charles Hickam, MD, a radiologist at Holston Valley. “It’s simply the best way to stage patients with cancer to determine if surgery or chemotherapy is the most appropriate treatment option.”

Wellmont will lease the PET scanner from Alliance Imaging Inc., and PET scanning is expected to begin at BRMC and HVMC in October. Currently, the nearest available PET scanner is located in Knoxville.

Radiologist Jack Hoffnung, MD, of Bristol Regional said PET scanning can aid in the management of diseases ranging from epilepsy and stroke to cancers of the brain, lung, breast, esophagus, colon, pancreas, ovary, musculoskeletal system, skin and lymphatic system.

“Year after year, dedicated PET scanning has proven its unique ability in the diagnosis and management of patients with a wide variety of cancers,” Dr. Hoffnung said. “PET has also become a critical tool in the evaluation and management of patients with heart disease. In neurology, imaging of brain function in patients with seizures, Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders is unparalleled.

“My colleagues and I applaud the decision by Wellmont to commit itself to establish a dedicated PET scanning service so that this vital decision-making tool can be of help to our community.”


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Jim Wozniak
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