Needle Replaces Scalpel for Breast Biopsy

A new, non-surgical, and much less traumatic breast biopsy technique, based on technology developed for NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST), is now saving women time, pain, scarring, radiation exposure, and money. The procedure is performed with a needle instead of a scalpel and leaves only a small puncture wound rather than a large incision scar. The patient remains conscious during the procedure, which is performed under a local anaesthetic.

The new biopsy technique evolved from NASA's improvement of the digital imaging technology known as a Charge-Couple Device (CCD), a high-tech silicon chip that converts light directly into digital images. The images can be manipulated and enhanced by computers. The CCD has been used for 10 years to observe stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects in visible and ultraviolet light. But, prior to the development of the HST, this thin, highly-sensitive CCD was not available commercially.

With the new breast-imaging procedure, a special phosphor enables the new CCD to convert x-rays to visible light. This allows the system to "see" with x-ray vision, and the apparatus holding the CCD includes instruments for doing an accurate, on-the-spot needle biopsy of suspicious tissue. The procedure is done in the radiologist's office. According to Dr. David Dershaw, Director of Breast Imaging at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, each patient saves more than $2,500, compared to the cost of a traditional surgical biopsy. More important, she is spared, "…the long, drawn-out, anxiety-ridden event." After a stereotactic biopsy, there is no scar and no healing process.




Advances in Detecting and Treating Heart Disease

Astronauts who spend extended periods of time in space often experience weakening of their hearts and blood vessels. As NASA doctors and researchers work to understand why this happens and what the impacts will be, their findings also are being applied to understanding, detecting, and treating heart disease.

"This is a fascinating time for medical science," said NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin, "when the developments of our aeronautics and space programs can be applied to a disease that affects so many here on Earth."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States - - for both men and women. And, about 60 million Americans have high blood pressure that, if left untreated, can cause heart attacks, strokes, and other medical problems. But, NASA's research on the human cardiovascular system is leading to many breakthrough discoveries, testing procedures, and treatments.


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