Mobile Tech Manor #108: FDA Takes Over in the OR

Mobile Tech Manor (MTM) is the home office where I cover the world of mobile technology, and it’s an active scene of gadgets and apps. This column is my look back at the week and my outlet to share observations and lessons learned about the tech that crossed my path. This week was unusual as I packed up MTM and headed to the hospital for treatment. I took a small mobile kit with me that worked very well.

FDA cancels my medical treatment

I am getting a lot of questions about the hospitalization so I figured I’ll explain it briefly here. I have some observations to share about the mobile gear I took with me so it’s not totally off-topic, but if you have no interest in the medical bits just skip over them.

Tuesday of this week I headed to the hospital for treatment of a blocked carotid artery. An ultrasound performed a few weeks ago showed significant blockage in one of the arteries, and a subsequent CTA scan of the neck verified it. This scan used injected dye to highlight the blockage, and it was determined the left carotid artery was 80-90 percent blocked. The medical specialists involved at that point explained that I was the perfect candidate for putting a stent in the artery, which would eliminate the blockage. That was scheduled and this week I checked into the hospital to have the procedure performed.

The procedure is a two-step process — first a fiber-optic camera is run through the arteries to take actual images of the blockage (angiogram) in the neck. Once the surgeons visually verify the extent of the blockage and that it is situated where the stent can be inserted, the second phase kicks in. This involves inflating a tiny balloon to collapse the blockage, followed by insertion of the stent over the area. The entire procedure carries some risk, as a small percentage of recipients have life-threatening episodes triggered by the playing around in the arteries. That risk requires recovery in the ICU just in case.

Rewind to Tuesday of this week, I was in the operating room for three hours, strapped down so I couldn’t move. I am sedated against the pain the procedure triggers, but was wide awake as the doctors needed to interact with me throughout the entire process. They wanted to make sure I was lucid so they would know instantly if they had triggered a stroke with the activity in my arteries. The entire time was spent conducting the angiogram, taking images of the blockage within the carotid artery.

It became apparent to me on the table that things weren’t going as the specialists anticipated. It turns out the imaging clearly demonstrated that the blockage was only 70-75 percent, and not the 80-90 percent previous imaging had indicated. That turned out to be very significant, as the FDA only allows the stents to be used in patients like me when the blockage is 80 percent or greater. Even though the specialists felt I needed the stent to correct my problem, they were not allowed to put it in. So after three hours of intense work by a great medical team, and even though I was already on the operating table ready for the full treatment, the doctors had to pull out without doing anything other than the angiogram. They faced serious sanctions by the FDA had they continued as planned with the actual correction of my medical problem.

So my hospital stay was cut short once they were sure no bad things were triggered in the OR. I came home the next day, with a carotid blocked just like it was before I went to the clinic. My doctors’ opinions are still that I need the treatment, but now they must wait and monitor the blockage (for years) until it hits that magic 80 percent that would allow them to treat it properly. Of course if I have a stroke in the future, which the stenting is designed to prevent, then the FDA allows them to perform the treatment in response. They can’t prevent the symptom, but they can respond to it.

My mobile kit

Not knowing how the whole treatment thing would go down, I only took two gadgets with me to the hospital. I carried the Samsung Galaxy Tab, in the leather case for protection, and the HTC EVO 4G. The Tab was a great inclusion in the kit as it handled all online things I wanted to do, namely tweeting about the hospital stay, and was also my e-book reader. While I normally prefer using the Galaxy Tab “naked,” bringing the case turned out to be a wise move as the Tab was knocked off the hospital bed. It fell a good four feet to the hard tile floor, but the case protected the device nicely. Using the Tab in the case is much like holding a paperback book, and I found it comfortable.

The EVO was more useful than I expected, as the hospital was in a Sprint 4G coverage area. I was able to tap the fast network for short periods, although since I wasn’t doing anything heavy the 3G network was sufficient much of the time. I felt more comfortable using the 4G in parts of the hospital where standard phone data connections weren’t allowed.

E-book of the week

I had a lot of time to read and I raced through a thriller by James Patterson. Worst Case is a fast-moving tale of a serial killer with a political agenda, perhaps the worst kind. Patterson tells the story as only he (and his coauthors) can, with lots of twists and turns.

Wrap-up

That’s the week in Mobile Tech Manor, which was a true mobile workspace. The week demonstrated that mobile gear is indeed getting smaller, but more powerful at the same time. Until next week, be safe and happy mobile computing.