NHRMC Adds High-Tech OR

January 08, 2007
One of the few operating rooms dedicated solely to technologically advanced vascular procedures will soon have a twin at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. The medical center is converting an existing OR into another “high-tech” operating suite to capitalize on the success of the high-tech OR that opened in 2001, said Karen Cooper, Vascular Surgery Coordinator at NHRMC. The first high-tech OR provided surgeons dedicated operating room space for minimally invasive vascular surgery, a rarity for hospitals in the nation. Surgeons were soon able to perform “endograft AAAs,” which involve the use of covered stents to buttress weakened walls of the aorta, the body’s largest artery. Other procedures, such as peripheral angiograms, use balloon and stent technology to repair arteries elsewhere in the body. The “high-tech” operating room features an imaging system that brings continuous X-rays to the patient’s bedside, allowing trained surgeons to monitor their work as they open vessels with balloons and implant stents to repair weakened blood vessels. The technology revolutionized repair of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). With traditional open heart surgery, a patient would be cut from chest to groin and expect to spend three weeks in the hospital. With the minimally invasive procedure, surgeons make two small incisions in the groin, thread the covered stent to the damaged area, and deploy it. The patient usually goes home in the next two days. Cooper noticed a marked difference soon after the room opened. “Early on, we did two AAA repairs back-to-back,” she said. “I went to the recovery room with the second patient, and the first patient was sitting up in bed saying ‘I’m ready to go home and play some pinochle.’ I said, ‘Wow, that’s just amazing.’” David Weatherford, MD, former chairman of the Department of Surgery at NHRMC, said the high-tech OR has allowed surgeons to provide state-of-the-art care for patients with complex problems, with some procedures even done on an outpatient basis. “What used to require surgery and hospitalization now can often be performed as an outpatient with minimal discomfort and quick results,” Dr. Weatherford said. Vascular procedures have increased by 87 percent in three years. Cooper said the goal now is to add a second “high-tech” operating room that will have the latest in flat screen monitors and improve computer technology to allow the surgeons to get a better view of the patient’s blood vessels. The room should be open early in 2007. At that time, the current high-tech OR will be outfitted with upgraded equipment, bringing both rooms to the same level of technology. The new equipment will assist surgeons in taking advantage of advancing technology that is already available at New Hanover Regional. For example, in the treatment of peripheral artery damage, surgeons can choose from:
  • Cryotheraphy, which freezes an area of the artery and allows the artery to be ballooned or stented;
  • Laser therapy, which breaks down blockage through lasers;
  • Athrectomy device, which uses a catheter with a “Pac Man”-like tip to “eat” the blockage; and
  • Carotid stents, which repairs the major artery from the heart to brain without allowing pieces of blockage to reach the brain
  • Cooper said NHRMC’s vascular program is at least the equal of the state’s other major hospitals, though typically cardiology and radiology share space with the vascular surgeons at other hospitals. “The sales reps who go in all the hospitals say we have one of the best set-ups in our suite,” she said. If you are experiencing leg pain or numbness and believe it may be a problem with blood circulation, please contact VitaLine, 815-5188, which can refer you to a vascular surgeon or radiologist.