By Julie Nusbaum
While watching the Buffalo Bills play on any given Sunday during football season, you might notice the team staff on the sidelines on their phones. What you might not expect is that the team doctors are consulting with their radiologists from Great Lakes Medical Imaging, who are reading and interpreting images between plays, as well as before, during and after the games, to provide up–to-the minute information and diagnoses on the Bills’ players.
Dr. Gregory Shields, a Board-certified and fellowship-trained musculoskeletal radiologist who has been with the practice for 11 years, recounts, “At times when I have read images during games, the doctors on the sidelines will ask me to wait until the cheering stops so that they can hear my medical opinion.”
Established in 2003, Great Lakes Medical Imaging (GLMI) has served as the official MRI and imaging service providers for the Buffalo Bills for the past 10 years, as well as for the Buffalo Sabres,for nearly as long. According to Dr. Shields, “We have done it all [for the athletes]- pain injections, arthrograms, spine and brain imaging, all of their joints, as well as CT scans, X-Rays and MRIs. We have a great professional relationship with trust on both sides.” There is constant communication between the practice’s doctors and the teams, sometimes multiple times each week and sometimes multiple times in one night, and GLMI “provides immediate turnaround times and follow-up on every single case.”
GLMI’s long-standing relationship with Buffalo’s two beloved professional sports teams is just one of the many reasons that this practice has positioned itself as Buffalo’s sports medicine imaging expert. Dr. James Rinaldi, GLMI’s Director of Sports Imaging is one of GLMI’s Board-certified Muscular-skeletal radiologists and is fellowship-trained in Cross Sectional Imaging, says, “Our longevity speaks for itself. If we are qualified to provide imaging for the only two local elite professional sports teams, then we are well-positioned to image and diagnose the weekend warriors and anyone else with routine sports injuries who might come our way.” A large portion of the group’s outpatient practice is musculoskeletal imaging and sports medicine and athletic injuries. Dr. Rinaldi adds, “We also provide interpretations and care for all of the local college athletes, including soccer, baseball and basketball players from University of Buffalo and high school athletes as well.”
GLMI is able to service its professional athletes so effectively in part because of the OASIS, or 1.2 Tesla Open High Field MRI, which has the highest strength open magnet configuration on the market and is the only machine of its kind in the Buffalo area. As a non-invasive procedure which enables physicians to examine internal organs, tissues and skeletal systems without surgery or radiation,the MRI produces high-resolution images through powerful magnets and radio waves. The 1.2 T allows for more effective imaging and diagnosis for all patients, but is particularly effective for those who are of larger body mass who may not fit or be comfortable on the higher strength 1.5 Tesla, which is a closed platform.
“Approximately 40% of the pro athletes need to go on the 1.2 Tesla. Tackles, linemen, tight ends, and any
of the bigger guys are much better accommodated in an open magnet,” explains Dr. Shields. “With an over 660-pound weight limit and an 82- inch wide table, the 1.2 T is open all around and side-to-side. When a patient lays down on the table, there is over 18 inches of clearance above their body, unlike the tube-like 1.5 Tesla, making it ideal not only for larger individuals, but for anxious or claustrophobic patients, patients suffering from acute pain, children, and the elderly. It is even possible for a family member to sit next to the patient and hold their hand for comfort and support.
While the higher resolution 1.5 T High Field MRI scanners are the practice’s workhorses, the 1.2 T enables high resolution imaging and diagnosis for a population that may not otherwise be able to be imaged. “Medicine is not one size fits all. We have to make sure that the patient is comfortable, and if they are not comfortable in a particular machine, they won’t get a good diagnostic study,” says Dr. Shields.
Dr. Rinaldi calls the 1.2 T “a very good tool in the arsenal to image everyone adequately and the gold standard for open magnet technologies.” Diagnostic pictures from the 1.2 T are markedly improved from the previously available .7 T open magnet. “It does better body imaging so we can see the solid organs and abdomen better, offers better neurological imaging because we can get thinner slices, and works faster and decreases the amount of time spent imaging,” says Dr. Shields.
With nearly 100 employees, GLMI is the largest radiology group in the greater Buffalo area that provides all aspects of imaging with subspecialty expertise. In striving to offer the best possible service to the broadest cross section of patients, this highly regarded practice has been on a path of continuous growth since its inception. All GLMI radiologists are Board-certified by the American Board of Radiology. In addition, GLMI has a broad range of specialized expertise, with fellowship-trained radiologists in breast imaging and in radiology subspecialties of musculoskeletal imaging, neuroradiology and nuclear medicine. “We can image and accept anyone, and do it well, from sports medicine, to abdominal imaging to neurologic and spine imaging,” says Dr. Rinaldi. When pressed about whether they are the best in town, Dr. Shields modestly offers, “We have a good track record.” In addition to the 1.2 High Field Open MRI and the 1.5 T, PET CT, low-dose CT, nuclear medicine, mammography, bone densitometry, fluoroscopy, ultrasound and X-ray are available at their state-of-the-art Park Club Lane flagship in Williamsville. With four other centers located in Cheektowaga, Orchard Park and Cambria, GLMI is well-positioned to offer convenient imaging expertise serving patients and referring physicians throughout the Buffalo region. Whether treating weekend warriors or high level professional athletes, Great Lakes Medical Imaging is western New York’s trusted imaging expert and an exceptional asset to the community. Buffalo is fortunate to have them in our midst.
GLMI’s 1.2 Tesla Open High Field MRI, the Hitachi OASIS, is Western NY’s highest field open magnet. Its advanced technology allows for imaging of even the most challenging patients. The open 82 cm (the widest possible) bed enables bariatric, pediatric, geriatric, anxious or claustrophobic patients to be imaged comfortably and quickly.
Special features of the 1.2T include
• Open architecture, so patients can see left to right
• Assymetric table, making it easy to transition on and off
• Rapid scanning mechanisms, which decrease study time
• Superior motion compensation, which reduces the need for rescans
• 660-pound weight limit
• Unobstructed viewing angle