Houston VA Hospital Using Innovative Technology to Make Heart Procedures Safer, Faster
HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is the first VA medical center in the country to use Intracardiac Echocardiography (ICE) to diagnose and treat veterans needing specialized cardiac care.
A new form of catheter imaging technology, ICE uses sound waves to produce images of the heart in the same way a regular echocardiogram does. However, ICE allows visualization of the heart from within the heart, using a small ultrasound transducer mounted onto a flexible and steerable catheter placed within one of the cardiac chambers.
“This cutting-edge tool allows for diagnostic and therapeutic information to be obtained during heart catheterization and electrophysiologic procedures, and has radically changed the way these procedures are being performed - making them safer, faster, and more effective,” said Biswajit Kar, M.D., director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.
Catheter-based procedures are commonly used to diagnose and treat heart-related problems. A catheter, a long, thin, flexible, hollow tube, is threaded inside the blood vessels and slowly moved into the heart. The catheter is initially inserted into a large vein through a small incision made usually in the inner thigh. Tools needed to visualize or repair the vessel can be passed through this tube directly to the diseased areas.
“ICE heralds a novel era of catheter-based intracardiac ultrasound imaging technology, promptly diagnosing procedural complications. Additionally, use of these powerful imaging tools has been accompanied by a reduction of fluoroscopic exposure time for both the patient and the surgeon,” said David Paniagua, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I., co-director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.
The MEDVAMC uses an interdisciplinary approach to provide veterans with education, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation for heart disease. Cardiac procedures performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory balance, extend, or replace therapies that previously relied on major surgery. Many patients, who might not have been suitable for surgery, can now be treated using new techniques. These minimally invasive approaches on blood vessels in the heart and other major arteries lower the risks and shorten recovery time compared with traditional surgical approaches. Other benefits include shorter hospital stays, earlier return to work, less pain and infection, and no surgical scarring.
“Intracardiac echo imaging can potentially be one of the most useful tools in our arsenal for diagnosis and treatment of multiple disorders corrected in the cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology laboratories. No other system currently available can offer real-time, direct visualization of cardiac structures during procedures like ICE does,” said Biykem Bozkurt, M.D., chief, MEDVAMC Cardiology Section.
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