Thursday, January 7, 1999

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Dr. Rodney Tam, left, and X-ray technician Adleen
Ichinose guide Moon-Yun Choi, public relations liaison
for St. Francis Hospital, into the CT scan machine for
a demonstration.

Sinus surgery
becomes safer
at St. Francis

The hospital's new
technology guides surgeons
with computer imagery

By Lori Tighe


Stuffy with sinus problems since childhood, Roland Watanabe never took inhaling and exhaling through his nose for granted.

At 53, Watanabe is able to breathe well, thanks to a breakthrough imaging technology.

St. Francis Medical Center is the first and only Hawaii hospital to use the new technology called "InstaTrak," which allows surgeons to see the patient's sinuses continuously, like taking a tour through a house.

"I felt miserable most of my life, and now I feel terrific. I recommend the surgery," said Watanabe, a banker at Hawaii National Bank.

The technology greatly reduces the risks of sinus surgery, according to Dr. Jonathan Pontell, president of the Hawaii Society of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery.

"It is definitely a breakthrough. It makes it safer," said Pontell, head of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at Tripler Army Medical Center. "The surgery does have potential risks, including injuring the eye, which could cause blindness, and entering the intracranial (brain) cavity, which could cause death."

One in five Americans has sinus problems and about 450,000 people undergo sinus surgery each year, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

Dr. Roland F.S. Tam, an otolaryngologist who deals with ear, nose and throat disorders at St. Francis, performed the first computer image-guided sinus surgery in Hawaii on Nov. 13.

"The benefit I found is that I know my patient a lot better. Before, we used a CT scan, which gave us a sampling of the sinus cavities. It was like reading a novel with every fifth page," Tam said. "This new technology allows you to see the whole picture, forward, back, up, down and sideways."

Tam scrolls through the anatomy looking for danger or surprises before he does the surgery.

By adopting the technology, which cost $157,000, Tam said St. Francis Medical Center has taken "an active interest in perfecting the best outcome for the patients."

For the first time, opthalmologist Jorge Camara, M.D., chairman of the eye, ear, nose and throat department, performed surgery on a patient with proptosis, or bulging of the eyes, from thyroid opthalmopathy -- using the new technology.

"This technology is the ideal mate to endoscopic small-incision surgery," Camara said.

Using a house as an analogy, Camara said "the endoscope allows the surgeon to view the details of a room through a small hole, while the InstaTrak system allows the surgeon to see where he is in relation to the other adjacent rooms of the house without accidentally entering into another room unnecessarily."

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