Emotional Stress and Medical Imaging
Many studies have shown, and continue to show the impact that stress can have on someone. It is well known how emotional stress can wreak havoc on the human body; causing us to feel a multitude of physical symptoms that mimic those found in cases of heart disease, lung disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and many others.
I was in Seattle in 2000 when Boeing was downsizing, eliminating a number of jobs in every department. We began to see a rise in the number of people being scheduled for nuclear stress tests in our department at the hospital where I was working. When interviewing each patient in regards to their medical symptoms prior to their stress tests, each one of them who had just lost his/her job with Boeing began to complain of chest pain associated with shortness of breath. Most of these patients were healthy individuals without prior history of medical ailments, nor any real significant family history of heart disease. However, when dealing with very specific symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath, you can't be too careful.
The majority of the stress tests we performed on those patients who now found themselves dealing with the very stressful repercussions of losing their jobs, turned out to be negative. However, the symptoms prompting their doctors to order the stress tests appeared to be quite real, and couldn't be explained as just simply anxiety. The impact of the stress they were feeling over losing their jobs, and as a result, worrying about how they would pay their mortgages and their bills, along with supporting their families, can't be overstated.
While living in Boulder, Colorado, the hospital in which I worked was within walking distance of the University of Colorado campus. During the time the students would be preparing for their final exams, we would see an increase in the number of Lung Scans that would be ordered through the emergency department at the hospital. The physical symptoms of those students being prepared for lung scans were basically a manifestation brought on by stress and anxiety. Even though the chances of any one of them having a pulmonary embolism were very slim, the physical symptoms couldn't be ignored. Also, being within a short distance to the university, we would perform lung scans on college kids having just gone through a breakup. The emotional toll of a rollercoaster relationship and a breakup can lead to a plethora of physical symptoms.
I can only imagine the impact of the stress felt by those affected personally by the events of September 11 after losing a loved one to the tragedy. I'm sure the hospitals and medical centers in the New Yorkarea experienced a dramatic rise in patients requiring medical imaging due to the physical symptoms created by emotional stress and anxiety. I'm proud to be a part of the medical imaging community that has helped so many people over the years.