West Penn Hospital Tomotherapy

Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Completion: 2006
Services: Architecture, Planning

The Western Pennsylvania Hospital is the only hospital in the tri-state area and one of just four hospitals in Pennsylvania to offer this unique technology that enables physicians to plan, verify and deliver radiation therapy more accurately than ever before.  To enhance the treatment center of the TomoTherapy Hi-Art System, the Western Pennsylvania Hospital utilized the architectural design skills of IKM Incorporated.

The TomoTherapy Hi-Art System is able to minimize radiation exposure to the cancer patient’s sensitive organs and adjacent healthy tissue. By protecting this healthy tissue, TomoTherapy reduces the side effects of radiation therapy in many patients while permitting the physician to increase radiation dosage to the cancerous tissue.  TomoTherapy combines focused radiation therapy and real time CT imaging.

Creating a serene environment for healing was a main design concern. The goal as West Penn’s partner in the design process was to provide a functional space that created the calm environment patients undergoing this type of care require.  Working together with West Penn, IKM designed a TomoTherapy suite on the ground floor of the hospital with a convenient entrance for patient drop-off.

Built in two phases the TomoTherapy suite consists of the main equipment room, called the vault, and the support areas. The vault required a maze and concrete walls lined with lead blocks, which can be reused should the space require any reconfiguration as technology changes in the future.  These elements provide the appropriate radiation shielding to staff and other parts of the hospital facility.

IKM’s interior design department also played a key role in the success of this project. To help reduce patient stress a water theme the was incorporated in design of the space. A wave in the floor pattern guides patients through the suite. Soft blues and sandy yellows were colors used in the design of the space. Indirect lighting throughout the patient areas and with a unique glass bulkhead in the vault create a soft ambience in the space, much more patient friendly than the typical, utilitarian fluorescent fixtures found in a hospital space. A virtual window seascape, to further enhance the water theme, was placed as backlit artwork in the maze to create a calming effect on the patients as they approached the treatment room.

To further promote patient comfort during treatment, a transparent ceiling-mounted light feature was installed above the TomoTherapy table. Soft changing colors of light and an audio system playing soothing music surround the patient during treatment. To provide both distraction and create curiosity this feature of the design helps to decrease levels of anxiety, fear, depression and boredom for patients. By occupying the patient this also helps to reduce the incidence of patient squirming, fidgeting and other nervous movement.

The project posed several design challenges including low structural ceilings, distribution of utilities within the confines of the space, and renovation work in space occupied by medical staff and patients. IKM was able to resolve these challenges to create an efficient, aesthetic solution.