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Cardiac Care on the Homefront

When the Cardiac Catheterization Lab opened at Centegra Northern Illinois Medical Center in 1992, the goal was to bring a high level of cardiac care to McHenry County. As procedures like cardiac and peripheral angioplasties grew into the thousands, the success of the program meant residents could be close to home for these specialized outpatient services. The cath lab became a jewel in the crown of an already extensive cardiac program that offered two-phase cardiac rehabilitation, pulmonary rehab, the Centegra Heart Failure Center and education for the cardiac patient.

In recent months the cardiac cath lab team has added a new level of service. Since March 2004, under the leadership of medical director, N.V.R. Raju, MD, they have been performing Primary Coronary Intervention, the clearing of blockages into the heart itself. Now, after almost a first full year of service, 60 emergency coronary angioplasties have been performed, all on patients who were in the midst of documented heart attacks.

The team that performs the angiograms and angioplasties is made up of a cardiologist, registered nurses and radiology technologists. Their training included several weeks of learning about wires, medications, balloons and stents. Training took place on-site, as well as at other cath labs.

The number of team members in each procedure depends on the patient and how complicated the coronary intervention may be. Throughout, the patient is resting in conscious sedation, allowing for communication between the patient and the team.

Patients who have used Primary Coronary Intervention at Centegra have ranged in age from 30 to 84. Some have benefited from coronary angioplasty alone, while others have required the use of stents, the tiny metal mesh ‘scaffoldings’ to hold the arteries open after blockages have been cleared, allowing for improved blood flow.

This coronary angioplasty sets the gold standard for cardiac services in a community hospital, where special heart services are not always available to the public or affordable to the hospital. Dr. Raju notes, “Unquestionably this latest addition to our services helps build the foundation for future expanded cardiac programs which include open heart surgery.”

“Without a doubt these patients lives have been saved, depending on their condition, or at the very least helped to prevent a future heart attack,” says Dr. Raju. “In the past, they would have presented at the emergency department and we would have used clot busters to stabilize them, then transported them to another hospital. Of course, we know that clot-busting drugs are effective in only about 70 percent of patients. That leaves 30 percent desperate for help, and time is always of the essence in these emergencies. “We have been very pleased with our success rate, and our patients have been grateful to have this service literally at their doorstep, in the home community.”

According to president and CEO, Michael Eesley, “It is exciting to have the technology, cardiologists, nurses and technologists to make this increased level of cardiac care possible at Centegra. It is a benchmark of service to offer coronary angioplasty this year. This is another step forward in our continuing quest to provide even higher levels of care to our patients. Heart disease is still one of the leading killers of Americans. Through community education, prevention, diagnostics and now coronary angioplasty, we are pleased to provide a broad spectrum of services to help keep our residents healthy.”