Chris DeAngelo, RT, CT coordinator, Alamance Regional Medical Center, Burlington, NC.

Alamance Regional Medical Center had not planned to switch to prefilled syringesit just worked out that way in early 2000 as a result of selecting a new vendor for CT contrast agent. But not until then did the Burlington, NC, hospital realize how much time was wasted by using hand-filled syringes.

“I found that, with a prefilled syringe, it takes slightly more than 25 seconds to load 150cc of contrast, compared to 2-and-a-half minutes the old-fashioned way,” CT coordinator Chris DeAngelo, RT, recalls. “Those 2 minutes represent a big savings in a busy department like ours, especially with our very fast CT scanners. When you can shave off a couple of minutes here and there, you come out way ahead at the end of the day. For example, with the time saved from this one little thing, we have the ability to performand bill foras many as 5 extra CT studies a day.”

Alamance is a 220-bed nonprofit community hospital offering general services, including emergency room. The radiology department operates 2 CT scanners, which are in use day and night. On a yearly basis, that pair of scanners log approximately 14,000 studies. Seventy percent of those employ contrast.

“The brand of contrast we were using in our CT scans prior to 2000 was causing a small number of patients to experience adverse reactions,” says DeAngelo. “So we decided to shop for another maker of contrast.”

The new vendor offered a more acceptable product as well as one thing morecontrast shipped in prefilled syringes.

“It was a completely unexpected find, and it has really changed a lot of the way we handle our department,” DeAngelo explains.

Notably, stepping up to prefilled syringes brought a halt to a nettlesome inventory-control matter. Previously, the hospital was forced to buy syringes separately from a second vendor, since the contrast supplier did not carry that product. As a result, the hospital could never guarantee that enough syringes would be available when needed.

“There were instances when we’d have contrast, but no syringes because the vendor was not able to get them to us in time they were back-ordered,” says DeAngelo. “Now, that’s no longer a problem, since the contrast and the syringes come as a single package.”

DeAngelo also likes the prefilled syringes because they’re cleaner: “There are no drips. And you don’t have the risk of cross-contamination.”

Not to mention no more spent bottles of contrast cluttering up the work area or overflowing from trash receptacles overdue for collection.

“It was always a worry that, with all those empty glass bottles around, they somehow might spill out onto the floor and pose a safety hazard to staff or patients,” he says.

DeAngelo feels that the use of prefilled syringes has even contributed to improved quality of patient care.

“If we’re not going to be squeezing in extra CT studies, the technologists are at liberty to spend the time savings paying more attention to the patients,” he says. “That means better service, which translates to better patient satisfaction, which translates to increased patient preference for choosing Alamance as the place to go for imaging services.”