- Hearing your medical provider gasp usually doesn't mean anything good. But Laura Christianson admits the first time she saw one of her hospital's newest piece of machinery it left her stunned.
"It literally took my breath away when I saw it move," Christianson said.
For five years, the radiologic technologist at Ashland Memorial Medical Center captured images of broken bones or torn muscles on machines -- some 16 years old -- often in separate rooms. That changed at MMC last fall.
"You set up an exam and all you have to do it pretty much just push a button and it moves to where you want it to move to," Christianson said.
The hospital bought and installed the Siemen's Multitom Rax robotic X-ray machine in October. The "Rax" moves where Christianson wants it, when she wants it, and how she wants it. The machine can do fluoroscopy, diagnostic X-rays, angiography, and 3D imaging all in one room.
"By the push of a button it just moved by itself," Christianson said of the machine. "[Patients are] kind of just sitting there like, 'Oh, cool, this is neat. I've never seen this before.' So, I think they're interested in it as much as we are."
Getting used to the machine took a little bit of time. Technologists had about two days to practice on it before they used it on a real person. But in the end, the experience is better for the technologist, the doctor, and the patient themselves.
Patient Sarah Stroshane tore tissue in her shoulder.
"I literally just sat there and everything moved around me," Stroshane said.
Moving her arm into set positions doesn't feel very good, so the new machine helped her stay comfortable during exams.
"The technologists do a great job of explaining things to you," Stroshane said. "It makes you feel comfortable and to be able to do this in our own hometown rather than have to travel an hour, hour-and-a-half away to do it, I think it's pretty great."
The machine is unique too. Just a handful of hospitals in the entire country have one installed. Siemens doesn't release specific numbers of machines sold. But, the company says the first machine to go into a U.S. facility was at the University of Utah in June 2016. The machine was first cleared by the FDA in November 2015.
Ashland Memorial Medical Center staff says its machine was the third to be installed in the nation.
"This is kind of innovative," MMC Director of Radiology Joanne Wendt said. "Everything all in one room for us. We don't have four separate rooms or the space to necessarily do those different modalities in each one."
It's innovation that comes with a big price tag. Memorial Medical Center paid $600,000 dollars for its machine. But doctors say it cuts down on radiation exposure, costs the patient less, and increases the things doctors can see and treat.
"There is a great sense of pride," Wendt said. "It was nice the hospital instilled confidence in our judgement to pick the correct machine."
The robotic machine is a tool Laura Christianson expects other, larger hospitals to start buying soon.
"You wouldn't think of something this big being in our little hospital that we have," Christianson said.
Newswatch 12 reached out to three Northwoods medical providers to see if any has the Siemens machine. Aspirus has had the robotic surgical tool da Vinici since 2007 and uses a 64-slice CT scanner, but it doesn't have the robotic X-ray machine.
A Marshfield Clinic spokesman says its Minocqua facility also does not have the Siemens machine. A Ascension Health spokesman did not respond in time for air.
The nearest facility with a Multitom Rax is in Grand Rapids, Mich.