Cath Lab Blossoms with New Capabilities

Right on schedule, NorthBay Medical Center’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab continues to blossom with new capabilities, technologies and services.

NorthBay has had a “Cath Lab” available to perform diagnostic procedures since 1992, but it is only in the last two years that expansion has been a recurring, almost daily, theme.

A $3.6 million remodeling in 2007 set the groundwork for one of the hospital’s busiest departments, a place where as many as a dozen different doctors come to perform a variety of procedures that improve blood flow in arteries all over the body—arms, legs, and even around the heart.

The procedures are not considered surgery. A catheter is inserted into a large artery and various wires and devices can be inserted through the catheter line, which allows a physician to place balloons or stents, or even maneuver a clot-busting laser.

In the fall of 2007, vascular surgeons began performing balloon angioplasties, stenting and atherectomies on peripheral (arm and leg) arteries.

In March 2009, the first laser atherectomy ever performed in Solano County took place. An Excimer “cool tip” laser was used to vaporize artery blockages into particles smaller than a red blood cell.

Then in August 2009, NorthBay began to offer Percutaneous Coronary Interventions. This procedure uses a similar balloon and stents to open up blockages but in coronary (heart) arteries. In just four months, there have been more than 50 PCIs performed, and doctors believe 2010 will see more than 200.

During a procedure, a physician is assisted by a team of four, both registered nurses and x-ray technologists. In all, there are 14 staff members of the Cath Lab, covering Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Staff is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. The Cath Lab Observation Unit is staffed with registered nurses who care for the Cath Lab patients both before and after their procedures. The lab has become so busy, with so many doctors and so many procedures, that there is already talk of adding a second lab.

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