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Hospital Updates 20 March 2024

A "Savi" Improvement for Breast Cancer Patients

Written by Sawyer Sweckard

Dr. Ullrich, a general surgeon at Ivinson, has begun using Savi Scout to aid in the removal of cancerous breast tissue. Savi Scout significantly improves the accuracy and effectiveness of breast cancer surgeries — enhancing surgical outcomes for patients and reducing the need for additional procedures.

General Surgeon Jack Ullrich, MD, has been performing surgery at Ivinson for 13 years. Dr. Ullrich has many capabilities, participating in surgeries ranging from thyroid and parathyroid to various gastrointestinal procedures, as well as hernia repair, skin cancer removal and colon surgeries. Notably, he is the only surgeon within the Laramie community to do breast surgery, and is passionate about caring for these patients. 

I do a lot of breast surgery and the more you do the better you get at it,” Dr. Ullrich said. The breast cancer care we provide here is as good as any you’ll get elsewhere.” 

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Savi Scout, a technology that is now implemented here at Ivinson, gives patients a more convenient, more comfortable option for breast surgery.

Prior to surgery, patients have a small reflector, no larger than a single grain of rice, placed in the breast at the site of the tumor or legion. This passive reflector can be safely left in the breast, giving patients and surgeons additional flexibility to schedule the date of their surgery.

Because Savi Scout helps surgeons locate the breast lesion in the tissue with more accuracy and precision, the device significantly improves patient care and outcomes.

Updating an Old Process

In the past, radiologists would often have to cancel patients to fit in a surgery patient. This process was very inconvenient for the radiologists and the patients. With Savi Scout, this is not the case anymore.

The traditional process for finding the location of the breast lesion for breast surgery is known as Wire Localization.

Wire Localization was actually introduced in the 1970’s and is still being used today. The day of the surgery, the patient would have to arrive several hours before their procedure to the radiology department for a scan. The radiologist would use an ultrasound or a mammogram to identify the lesion and then direct a physical wire into it, sticking several inches out of the patient’s body. This process is often quite uncomfortable for patients, who are already nervous and anxious for their appointment. The surgery would then need to be scheduled for the same day. During the procedure, Dr. Ullrich would follow the wire down, removing the lesion along with the wire. 

As Dr. Ullrich says, The disadvantage of this process was for the patients as they had to be there extremely early and radiology is often busy with other appointments making it difficult to plan accordingly. So we started looking at alternatives.”

That alternative ended up being Savi Scout, a process that has been in use for over ten years now. Savi Scout has been implemented at Ivinson for two months so far, and Dr. Ullrich has already completed several successful cases with it. 

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Benefits of the New Process

We are confident we can get a case in and not have to depend on radiology’s schedule the day of the surgery,” Dr. Ullrich says. It’s better for radiology, it’s better for the patients that we’re removing the lesion from, and it’s better for the patients who are scheduled for procedures.” 

Savi Scout is placed preoperatively, meaning before the surgery takes place. That not only helps with the hospitals scheduling to get the procedure done as soon as possible, but makes it more available and comfortable for the patients.

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That is also great for the patients as we don’t need to inconvenience them the morning of surgery,” Dr. Ullrich said. 

For patients, their surgery day is a lot shorter with Savi Scout compared to what it used to be with wire localization. With the Savi Scout, the procedure’s efficiency has significantly reduced the waiting time, with patients needing to arrive only one to two hours before their surgery.

The Savi Scout is quite unique compared to wire localization, as it doesn’t have any wires connected to it. Before the procedure takes place, the patient would come in to radiology to get an ultrasound or mammogram so the radiologists can identify the location of the lesion. Once identified, they would insert a needle and inject the Savi Scout, a little device that is around ¼ inch long and a millimeter wide, into the breast as a marker. The patient is then able to go home with the device placed until the day of their surgery. Savi Scout can remain in your system for a total of 4 months, but usually is placed up to 30 days prior to the procedure. 

The day of surgery, the patient shows up at a reasonable time and the surgery starts. During the procedure, Dr. Ullrich has a device that emits a signal, and that will reflect back to the Savi Scout device, giving him a signal readout. It will give him a guide where he can follow it down to the lesion himself in which he can then take out the lesion in the breast as well as the Savi Scout marker. 

Care Close to Home

First and foremost, if Ivinson is the closest to your home, that’s the best place to have surgery,” says Dr. Ullrich. Being near home has many advantages beyond just convenience, offering significant benefits for patients especially one’s considering surgery.

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1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Breast cancer ranks second among the most common cancers in women, following right behind skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, Breast cancer accounts for about 30% of all new female cancers each year, estimating that there will be 310,720 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in 2024.[1]

As the only general surgeon who performs breast cancer surgeries in Laramie, Dr. Ullrich is a very experienced surgeon in this area. The Savi Scout further enhances Dr. Ullrich’s expertise and the level of breast cancer care that you can receive at Ivinson.

We have tons of experience in taking care of breast cancer, and we have great results in terms of treating it and even curing it.”

Dr. Ullrich offers valuable advice, emphasizing, Early detection for breast cancer is the key for successful treatment and a cure. Breast cancer in all stages has a 90% survival rate, but most diagnosis of breast cancer are going to be stage one, two, or three putting it in the early stage. The take home of breast cancer is to be on top of your screenings and mammograms.”

Whether you require a screening or a surgery with Dr. Ullrich, remember his advice, We do it here all the time. So get treated close to home, close to family, that’s best for you.”

Sawyer Sweckard
Marketing Intern email

Sawyer is a marketing intern at Ivinson, who recently graduated from the University of Wyoming. After earning his bachelor's degree in marketing with a minor in general studies, Sawyer is excited to join the Ivinson team taking on real world projects both big and small. Beyond work, Sawyer enjoys the many opportunities Laramie has to offer, especially the sporting events hosted by the University of Wyoming.