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Heart procedure available in Pa. hospital

December 25, 2000

Heart procedure available in Pa. hospital



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Many doctors and patients in the area are unaware an advanced cardiac procedure is available right in Franklin County at Chambersburg Hospital.

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For five years, Dr. Tim Walsh has been performing cardiac catheterizations at the hospital to map out blockages in a patient's arteries. But some are still unaware this 20-minute procedure can be performed at the local hospital, and they continue travel to hospitals in Hagerstown, Harrisburg and Hershey, Walsh said

Jack Bowers, a Chambersburg resident, said being able to have the procedure done so close to home eased his mind when he was having chest pains three years ago.

"I didn't know before then they did catheterizations in the hospital. I would much rather have it done by local people rather than people who I didn't know," Bowers sad.

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Bowers was still nervous about the extent of heart damage the exam would show, but in the end his chest pains, which were a sign of arterial blockages, have been successfully treated with medications.

The procedure involves inserting a narrow catheter near the groin and up to the heart while the patient lies flat on an examination table surrounded by television monitors.

Dye is injected into the catheter and the doctor and staff observe the progress of the dye through the arteries on an x-ray camera taking pictures. The dye won't go through a blockage or the blockage will restrict its flow, allowing doctors to determine where blockages are.

Knowing the location and extent of the blockages allows the doctor to choose the best course of action - medication, balloon angioplasty or a bypass.

Since the lab opened in 1995, Walsh and Dr. Robert Masci have performed about 1,100 cardiac catheterizations, said Cindy Green. Dr. Tom Haywood, who helped start a similar lab at the Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, will join the practice in January.

Chambersburg Hospital averages about 300 procedures a year, with the majority of them on men. Nationwide, there are about 1.5 million cardiac catheterizations performed every year, Walsh said.

Patients hospitalized for chest pains or heart attacks or those referred by their own doctors can undergo the procedure. It is a requirement for bypass and balloon angioplasty procedures, Walsh said, but he pointed out that everyone who has a cardiac catheterization does not require surgery.

The procedure is usually done on an outpatient basis.

The Chambersburg lab has a solid track record and has not had any complications while performing the procedure, Walsh said.

"That could be a deciding factor for patients. Patients are more educated and see we have no bypass team here," if there is an emergency Walsh said. But he said their record speaks for itself.

"And any time he thinks he could run into a problem he will send that patient to Harrisburg for the procedure," Green said.

Walsh said he hopes the lab has set Chambersburg Hospital on a course to offer advanced cardiac care in the next decade. Currently, the hospital does not perform bypasses or balloon angioplasty.

"Some of these emergency procedures really should be available in community-sized hospitals," Walsh said.

Walsh said heart disease rates are increasing, but many people ignore the early warning signs when preventative measures are available and wait until they have a heart attack to seek help.

"People having chest discomfort when they are exerting themselves shoveling snow, pushing a lawn mower or hunting are experiencing warning signs for potential heart problems," he said.

"That is the biggest problem. Patients ignore it, worry about going to the doctor, but there is a lot of opportunity for that group of patients," Walsh said.

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