South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday February 25, 2020
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September 2007 - Volume 4 - Issue 3

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Bringing the Big Radiology Picture to North Ridge Medical Center

Interventional Radiologist, Dr. Linda Hughes, has trained with some of the best physicians in the field.

Now, as chief of the new Imaging and Interventional Institute at North Ridge Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, she wants the department to be the best in the business.

She’s working hard to make that happen. Recruited by the hospital’s Chief Executive Officer, Dianne Aleman, Dr. Hughes joined the hospital staff Sept. 5, 2006 – and spent the next 103 days assembling what she felt was the right combination of physicians and state-of-the-art imaging and endovascular equipment to provide what the hospital and patients need.

She has assembled a team of full and part time radiologists and is working with members of senior management in both the facility and at Tenet’s corporate offices to build the North Ridge Medical Imaging Center to the point that it will attract not just local patients, but those from around the world.

Dr. Hughes’ will to succeed is obvious, from her gentle but deliberate tone, to her vision of what imaging is now, and can be in the future. She is self-motivated, and her inner drive has taken her from her native Boston, through a variety of schools, hospitals and training facilities to South Florida, where she honed her talents working at several clinics.

The fact that she is one of just a few women in medicine who is in charge of a radiology department doesn’t seem to faze her. "I never really gave it much thought," she says.

What she does give thought to is, "providing good, patient-oriented quality care more quickly." That was her goal when she took over the reins at the North Ridge Imaging and Interventional Institute.

And today, she says, "I think we are there."

In just the past year, a number of things have changed – cosmetically and diagnostically – at the Imaging and Interventional Institute at North Ridge Medical Center. Established in 1975 as the North Ridge Cardiac & Vascular Institute, the department got a new name and a new logo. Soon after Dr. Hughes arrived, the hospital hired Dr. Richard Baker as a full time radiologist and Dr. Mehul DeSai.

Even before Dr. Hughes walked through the doors of North Ridge Medical Center, the hospital was a well known open heart provider in Broward and Palm Beach counties. The Institute uses a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach to support patients through various stages of diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Hughes emphasized the difference between a radiologist and an interventional radiologist. "A lot of people think we just stand around in the dark and read film," she said. But an interventional radiologist carries on through the diagnosis, and "in about half of the cases we diagnose, we operate on it ourselves."

She is dedicated to sharing her expertise with other physicians and informing the public about new and cutting edge procedures that can help patients with a variety of ailments.

Hughes says that North Ridge is already known for its coronary and peripheral angioplasty and stent placement. With her at the helm in the radiology department, the hospital has added vascular and nonvascular interventional procedures that include angioplasty, thrombolysis and stent implants. All are being performed in the Institute’s advanced cardiovascular laboratories.

The emergence of endovascular surgery techniques – a branch of medicine which treats disease using catheter-based, image-guided techniques, among others – is significant. Dr. Hughes says these procedures as less invasive, require less hospital time, generally have fewer complications and can be done at lower costs. Specialists in this field generally have backgrounds in interventional radiology, vascular surgery or interventional cardiology.

Dr. Hughes says patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms (which traditionally required open surgery under general anesthesia) can now be treated through minimally invasive procedures under the care of a vascular surgeon and an interventional radiologist. The patient stay is normally a day or a day and a half. – with shorter recovery time at home.

Endovascular techniques can also be used to treat the thousands of women with uterine fibroids, resulting in pelvic pain and/or excessive bleeding during the menstrual cycle, or pressure against the bladder or rectum, causing additional disruption to normal functions. Uterine fibroid embolization is a less radical alternative to a hysterectomy. It is performed with twilight sedation using interventional radiology catheter techniques to destroy the blood supply to fibroid tumors, which are benign.

Another interventional procedure being performed by Hughes and her associates – and hailed as a breakthrough by the radiology chief – is radiofrequency ablation (RFAs). In addition to image-guided biopsies performed on tumors or growths in oncology patients, RFAs can be used to treat tumors in patients considered high-risk or who are not good candidates for surgery.

In the case of an RFA, a probe is inserted into tumors under CT or ultrasound guidance. The probes are connected to a generator which transmits very high frequency waves through the probes and into tumors. As Dr. Hughes explained, "We put in the probe and burn out the tumor." A physician monitors the temperature in the probe and knows how hot it must get to ablate, or kill, the tumor.

This procedure, Dr. Hughes says, can be used for cancers of the liver, lung, bone and kidney. It is not confined to single-site tumors either, but can be used on cancer that has metastasized

A graduate of the Boston University School of Medicine, the radiologist completed her Boston area studies with a residency in diagnostic radiology at the Deaconess Beth Israel Medical Center/Harvard Medical School. She had completed her undergraduate studies at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., and received a master’s of pharmacology degree at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences.

It was her fellowship studies which brought her to South Florida, specifically to the Baptist Cardio and Vascular Institute (BCVI) in Miami, where she studied with the world-renowned interventional radiology team under the direction of Dr. Barry Katzen, an expert in the field. A variety of other opportunities ensued until she was recruited two years ago by North Ridge CEO, Dianne Aleman.

Dr. Hughes said she felt North Ridge gave her the best opportunity of having the autonomy and creative license she sought in an environment that needed a professional injection of vitality - and exposure to the latest imaging and interventional services. "There is a lot about [my specialty] that patients, nurses and even physicians don’t know," Dr. Hughes said. "It is important that they learn about all of the options available to them today."

Already, Dr. Hughes has developed a multidisciplinary team of highly skilled medical personnel working together in a non-territorial manner. She has created an environment in which respect for each other’s contributions to patient care is key – and the patient is the focus of all the efforts.

She added: "My feeling is by doing the best for the patient, we are all going to win."

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