Radiology modernizes rapidly in Qatar

October 3, 2003

Radiological imaging in Qatar has a short but a dynamic history. The first modern radiology department was established under the supervision of Dr. Sayed M. Kalanter when Hamad General Hospital opened in 1982. The department developed rapidly

Radiological imaging in Qatar has a short but a dynamic history. The first modern radiology department was established under the supervision of Dr. Sayed M. Kalanter when Hamad General Hospital opened in 1982. The department developed rapidly thereafter, from one unit with three radiologists to a large department covering the three hospitals that form the Hamad Medical Corporation Hospital complex, with a total of 1200 beds.

The department now employs 15 consultants and 13 specialists and trains seven residents. A full array of modern imaging modalities including spiral CT, MR, nuclear medicine, and interventional radiology is available to cover the public radiological services for the state of Qatar, which has a population of 650,000. All these services are offered free of charge for Qatari nationals and at reduced fees for expatriates.

The public primary health centers and the private sector in Qatar provide only a limited spectrum and number of radiological services. This causes enormous pressure on Hamad Medical Corporation radiology facilities and results in a high annual throughput of more than 400,000 examinations. In addition, demand for more sophisticated examinations and noninvasive or less invasive procedures is increasing.

This situation reflects what is happening in radiology departments worldwide: Radiology's relevance to the rest of the hospital is changing as dependence on more sophisticated imaging information increases. In 2002, we performed approximately 70,000 ultrasound examinations, 13,000 CT scans, 6500 MR examinations, 3000 nuclear medicine studies, and 1400 biopsies, angiographies, and interventional procedures.

The range of pathology in Qatar varies from that seen in Europe or the U.S. Qatar has one of the highest rates of road traffic accidents in the world, resulting in a large number of head, abdominal, and skeletal trauma cases. The high proportion of foreign workers from the Indian subcontinent and Far East Asia results in a high incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, hydatid disease, amoebiasis, and not infrequently, malaria. The main health problems of the native population are obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and their consequences.

At present, the radiology department is embarking on several new projects, including the establishment of a radiation protection unit to support proper patient management and to meet the requirements of radiation protection law. The department will also replace its old equipment with a new gamma camera, two MR scanners, and two CT scanners in the next 18 months.

The department was one of the first in the Middle East to acquire an MR scanner (in 1990) and to begin subspecialization in radiology. But the small population of Qatar and the lack of a medical school made it difficult to implement a radiology training program. With the development of the Arab Board of Radiology, a training scheme has been established that will soon begin training residents, most of whom are Qataris.

The modernization of the radiological equipment together with staff expansion constitutes a good basis for developing various research programs relevant to local health problems. This will be supported by the opening of the Cornell Medical School in Qatar. Hamad Medical Corporation will serve as its main teaching hospital. The general situation of radiology in Qatar is expected to improve further with the opening next year of two new regional hospitals with 200 beds each, a Cancer Center with 110 beds, and an additional private hospital.

DR. KAMEL is chair of radiology and a consultant neuroradiologist, and DR. SZMIGIELSKI is former acting is chair of radiology and a consultant radiologist, both at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar.