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St. Mary Opens New Cardiovascular Catheterization Labs Reaffirming Role as a Regional Leader in Cardiovascular Medicine
New procedure rooms offer faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

LANGHORNE, Pa., February 17, 2009 – St. Mary Medical Center today announces the completion of its state-of-the-art procedure rooms in a completely new cardiovascular catheterization suite. Now located on the second level of the Outpatient Care Facility, the newly constructed area will open with three fully functional state-of-the-art catheterization labs (cath labs) and 14 patient preparation and recovery rooms. A fourth catheterization lab will open in spring 2009. To date, nearly 40,000 cardiovascular catheterizations have been performed at St. Mary, making the Medical Center’s interventional cardiovascular team one of the region’s most experienced. St. Mary opened the first cardiac catheterization lab in Bucks County in 1991. Patient volume at the St. Mary cath labs has increased more than 88 percent since 1999 when the labs were last expanded. The addition of a fourth catheterization lab will position St. Mary to better meet the growing need in the community for life-saving cardiovascular procedures.

“The nearly 4,000 catheterizations that the cardiovascular team at St. Mary performs each year is significant, and that number is expected to increase as the population continues to age and heart disease continues to be the nation’s most common health problem,” notes Medical Director of the St. Mary Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratories Dr. Ronald Fields. “By adding these new procedure rooms St. Mary is equipping our physicians, nurses, technicians, and support staff with the most advanced technology to complement our extensive experience.”

The most common procedures performed in the cath lab to identify and treat the narrowing of heart and peripheral blood vessels include diagnostic catheterizations, balloon angioplasty, and stent placement. In many cases, catheter-based interventions are a safe and effective alternative to open- heart surgery.

The fully digital system in the new cath labs enables physicians to view extremely detailed three-dimensional (3-D) images of a patient’s vascular system. The speed and accuracy of the system facilitates faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment. Also important, patients are exposed to less radiation during procedures, and the new lab tables accommodate larger-sized patients.

The rotational capabilities of the ceiling and floor mounted G-arms X-ray system provide 3-D imaging quality comparable to CT scans. The wide-screen flat detector digital technology provides outstanding image resolution over a larger field of view. These unique capabilities are especially useful in treating carotid artery (neck) or peripheral vascular (legs or arms) disease. For example, an interventional cardiologist can view a 3-D reconstruction of the vascular system in both legs at the same time.

In addition, physicians and staff had input in the design of the new lab area, says Director of Interventional Cardiology Dr. George Heyrich. “The speed and better visualization of the new system and design of the new lab area allows us to increase productivity and shorten procedure times. These benefits are especially important to patient safety when performing emergency angioplasty to open an artery in the shortest possible time and thus minimize the damage caused by a heart attack.”

The investment in this new technology supports a leadership role in providing excellent cardiovascular care to the community. “We have a talented team of experienced physicians at St. Mary Medical Center, and the availability of the most advanced technology definitely plays a role in our ability to treat the most complex cardiovascular conditions,” says Chief of Cardiology Dr. Richard Leshner. “Our patients depend on us for the very best quality of care,” Leshner adds. “From our exceptional emergency and critical care to diagnostic testing, interventional and surgical capabilities and cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation, St. Mary has a world-class comprehensive cardiovascular program.”

The new cath labs represent a $10 million investment in cardiovascular services. St. Mary received significant financial support for the construction of the new cath labs in the form of three separate grants totaling $2.25 million from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program: $1 million was received in the spring; $1 million in the summer; and an additional $250,000 in the fall 2008. These state grants were awarded through the efforts of the St. Mary Medical Center Foundation working with the governor and local and state legislators. Future plans include the construction of private patient rooms adjacent to the cath labs and the eventual relocation of the St. Mary Electrophysiology Labs, says Mark Nessel, Senior Vice President, Operations. This consolidation of cardiovascular services in one area will offer more convenient access for patients.

The cath labs use the latest technology and advanced clinical procedures to diagnose and treat blockages and narrowing in the arteries, evaluate the pumping ability of the heart and the function of heart valves, and measure internal pressures within the heart. With nearly 93 percent of adults living in Bucks County having at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, these are life-saving services provided to the community.

Among advanced procedures performed in the St. Mary Cardiovascular Catheterization Labs are:

  • Emergency Balloon Angioplasty – While most cath lab procedures are not emergencies, life-saving emergency balloon angioplasty performed during a heart attack provides patients the immediate intervention needed to minimize damage to the heart. Angioplasty clears blockages in arteries to restore blood flow to the heart. In many cases, coronary stents are then inserted to support the structure of the blood vessel and keep it open. Precise coordination between the St. Mary Emergency Department, interventional cardiologists, and cath lab staff results in door-to-balloon-time angioplasties being performed much faster than the national average.
  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Stent Graft – This minimally invasive procedure is used to repair a weakened section of the aorta (an abdominal aortic aneurysm). The stent graft allows blood to flow through the stent, entirely bypassing the aneurysm, thus reducing the risk of rupture and eliminating the need for major abdominal surgery.
  • Carotid Artery Stenting – This minimally invasive treatment option is an alternative to traditional surgery for blockages in the carotid artery. With the patient under local rather than general anesthesia, physicians use a combination of balloon angioplasty and a stent implant to re-open the carotid artery, a major supplier of blood to the brain.
  • Amplatzer Closure – Inserted through a catheter in a leg vein, the amplatzer closer is threaded through the inferior vena cava to the heart in order to close patent foramen ovale and atrial septal defects. Once the device is positioned, it is unsheathed, allowing it to deploy across the defect and close the hole.
  • Drug-Eluting Stent Implantation – During this procedure, stents coated with a special medication are permanently implanted to open an artery and improve blood flow to the heart. The medication coating on these stents prevents the growth of scar tissue that often causes the treated artery to close up again.
  • Rotational Atherectomy – Using a high-speed rotational burr, this technique widens narrowed coronary arteries by removing atherosclerotic plaque.
  • Cryoplasty – Used to treat peripheral vascular disease, a specially designed angioplasty balloon is filled with cold, liquid nitrous oxide gas, and used to break down plaque and open blocked arteries in the legs.