New heart ops at GSH

Thanks to a new state-of-the-art lab at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, local heart patients can expect to get sophisticated treatment much more quickly than in the past.

The Cardiac Clinic at the hospital used to have two cardiac catheterisation ("cath") labs. Since August 2004, the Clinic had to operate using one lab only, as the other lab was shut down due to safety concerns.

Recently, however, the hospital received a R12 million donation from the D.G. Murray Trust. This was used to buy new equipment and making much-needed structural changes to the hospital building.

All invasive tests of the heart are performed in catheterisation labs, where specialised X-ray equipment is used to attend to "plumbing" and "electrical" problems of the heart.

"We tried to keep the lab going, but it was no longer safe," Dr Andrejz Okreglicki told The waiting list became longer and longer, and a bottleneck of desperate patients resulted.

The new lab and equipment, which was officially launched this week, will help to reduce waiting lists for cardiac procedures and the duration of hospital admissions. This will no doubt save more lives and allow for more efficient use of staff and resources, according to the Minister of Health in the Western Cape, Pierre Uys.

More procedures available
Apart from performing all the essential procedures that they used to do, doctors at the clinic can now also deal with rhythm and "electrical problems" of the heart (called arrhythmia) in a more sophisticated way than before.

"[The donation] made it possible for us to do more than we could ever do before," Okreglicki said.

The new lab, which has been operating since 6 June 2006, is also unique in the sense that it is the only cath lab in the country, situated in a teaching hospital, which can attend to these electrical problems on a full-time basis.

The equipment in the lab is on par with what the rest of the world uses, Okreglicki said. And the lab complex is probably now also the most advanced in Africa.

Diagnostic and therapeutic services
The new clinic offers both diagnostic and therapeutic services, which includes cardiac catheterisation and treatments such as angioplasty and stenting (where a stent is inserted into the heart valve).

Various other procedures and diagnostic studies can also be performed, such as the insertion of intra-aortic balloon pumps, and the drainage of fluid that accumulates around the heart.

Importantly, technology is now also available that allows cardiologists to remove blockages in the arteries simply by "burning them away" with a heated wire. The wire is inserted in the most prominent arteries via the groin area. This procedure cuts the risk for complicated bypass surgery, Die Burger reports.

The clinic already draws patients from around the Western Cape, as well as from the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

- (Carine van Rooyen, Health24)

- July 2006

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