Appalachian Regional Healthcare will begin offering specialized diagnostic heart studies in Harlan by the end of the month.
Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital has established a laboratory facility to provide "cardiac catheterization," a procedure used to view the heart and its blood vessels. A specially trained team of physicians, nurses and technicians will perform the procedure.
"It has taken several years of effort by many people to bring this special medical service to Harlan so that it is no longer necessary for the majority of people needing one to travel out of town to receive it," said Michael Layfield, Harlan ARH Community CEO.
"This is one many steps planned to develop a dynamic, comprehensive cardiology program for the citizens of Harlan County. These services have been the goal of our hospital's board members, our cardiologist and physicians, and the employees for a long time."
ARH first applied with the state for a certificate of need (or CON) to perform heart catheterization procedures in the mid-1990s. The state CON grants permission for hospitals to provide services under the terms of the state health plan.
That first application was denied, and planners had to lobby the legislature for changes to the state health plan so that Harlan County would qualify for the service. Following some staff changes and financial plans for equipment and training, the hospital installed the lab in the fall of 2003 and has been preparing the new diagnostic heart service since.
"This will be the cornerstone of a new heart center for ARH in Harlan," said Dr. Khaled Saleh, a board-certified cardiologist, member of the hospital medical staff, and the physician who will inaugurate the diagnostic service in Harlan.
"This is also a great opportunity for Harlan County as it will allow patients to receive more comprehensive cardiology services close to home, and will increase the advancement of the hospital and open the doors to more services in the future," he added.
Hospital officials plan to include upgrades soon to their ultrasound equipment to provide enhanced echo-cardiology services, including trans-esophageal echocardiography (or TEE), as well as new facilities for cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation.
Heart catheterization is considered the most accurate way to gather the information to diagnose and treat heart problems most effectively. The study involves X-ray moving pictures to see the heart valves, to check how well the heart is pumping and to look for possible blockages in the coronary arteries.
Heart catheterization is a procedure in which a narrow, flexible tube is inserted through a blood vessel into the veins, arteries and chambers of the heart. The tube is called a catheter. It is usually inserted through a blood vessel in the arm, groin, or neck, and is performed on an outpatient basis meaning overnight stays in the hospital are not usually necessary.
"Eight out of 10 patients who have the procedure do not require any further intervention," Layfield noted. "Cardiac catheterization is a state-of-the-art procedure that has been performed safely in hospitals large and small for many years. It is not unusual now for these procedures to be done in doctors' offices. We are very pleased the long planning process is over and we are now ready to begin providing this level of care in our community."
During the procedure, the physician takes note of the direction and the amount of blood flow through the heart. With the knowledge gained from the procedure, heart valves may be repaired or replaced before heart failure occurs. Heart attacks may be prevented or delayed by treating coronary artery blockages.
"For our purposes, we now have a well-equipped laboratory facility ready to go," Saleh continued. "The staff has been well trained and are very enthusiastic about what we are doing here. We are all very happy to be ready to start this service in the community."
The other members of the initial staff of the heart catheterization lab includes nurse manager Johnnie Ruth Bargo, RN; Brian Hensley, RN; Lynn Brewer, radiology technologist; and Kellie Bledsoe, RN.