Three-dimensional digital mammography is now a reality at Houlton Regional Hospital

State-of-the-art digital mammography services are now available in southern Aroostook County for the first time.

HOULTON, Maine – State-of-the-art digital mammography services are now available in southern Aroostook County for the first time.

Houlton Regional Hospital, with financial support from the Health Services Foundation, unveiled its new 3D tomosynthesis mammography equipment for the hospital’s radiology department.

3D digital mammography has been offered at the Près Isle and Bangor hospitals, but now patients in the Houlton area can receive the same high level of care without having to travel considerable distances.

The first patient to use this revolutionary technology was seen on January 13 at Houlton Hospital.

“With the old machine, we could only take a two-dimensional image,” said Rachel Soucy, mammography technician at HRH. “This updated system allows a doctor to manipulate the image to see if there is anything that needs further investigation.”

The new imaging system means patients are less likely to be called back for additional exams and, more importantly, areas of concern can be addressed more quickly.

Lori Weston, director of Health Services Foundations, said the purchase could not have been made without the overwhelming support of the local community through various fundraising events.

For example, in 2021, the “Festival of Trees” event raised a record $44,000 for the organization simply by selling $1 raffle tickets for various ornately decorated Christmas trees.

“The role of the Health Services Foundation is to help secure funding for items like this,” Weston said. “It’s something that’s really critical to health care in our region. The impact of being close to home is so much easier to do when you’re here surrounded by family and friends.

Weston added that a number of people have told him they plan to delay their scans until the Houlton unit is ready for use.

In 2020, Houlton Regional Hospital performed 2,400 mammograms. Hospital officials expect that number to increase significantly now that HRH has a higher caliber imaging system.

“On a good day, we can do about 13 patients a day,” Soucy said.

Sue McLaughlin, radiology manager at HRH, said that in addition to equipment, the hospital has also remodeled its mammography rooms to make them more comfortable for patients. Three rooms have been renovated to create more of a ‘suite’ feel to the hospital to reduce anxiety for people undergoing tests.

Additionally, the artwork in the suite will feature creations by Houlton Middle-High School students and will be rotated every few months.

“It’s a comfort for women — and men — to be able to stay here with their doctors,” McLaughlin said.

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