New services will help University heart patients, expand heart treatment

University Hospital will spend more than $7.4 million to expand cardiac services to respond to new technology and treat more patients whose heart rhythms have gone awry.

University’s boards voted Thursday for two different projects to add two new larger “hybrid” operating rooms for cardiac procedures and to create a dedicated lab for electrophysiology procedures to correct heart rhythms.

The new hybrid ORs will be more than 900 square feet, compared to 700 square feet in the current ORs, said Kyle Howell, vice president of support and facilities services. Showing a slide of a current OR crammed with equipment during a procedure, Howell told the board, “You see what technology has done to the environment. It has filled up the space.”

University’s Heart & Vascular Institute currently has one procedure room for implanting cardiac devices such as pacemakers and for electrophysiology procedures like ablation, which zaps scar tissue on the heart that might be interfering with normal electrical conduction, said Teresa Waters, administrative director of the institute.

The room was fully booked Thursday and “they’ll work until 10 o’clock tonight,” she said. It happens often and University’s cardiologists frequently have to refer their patients out for electrophysiology procedures because of it, said Dr. Mac Bowman of University Cardiology Associates. The number of patients needing those procedures is expected to increase as more patients survive other heart problems that leave scarring on the heart and as the population as a whole gets older, he said.

“As we live longer, with the ravages of blood pressure and diabetes and other things you develop, that scar tissue at the top of your heart... contributes to developing these types of heart problems,” Bowman said.

A second lab just for these procedures should greatly increase the number of patients they can treat, Waters said. When the institute was built, it included a shell lab next to the current one that will now become the new lab, she said.

“We planned for this,” Waters said. There is demand for the service and “we can only expect that to grow,” she said.

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