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Interventional cardiology gears up to become regional center

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Sutter Roseville Medical Center has expanded its interventional cardiology program so that it can serve patients every day of the year. Dr. George Fehrenbacher, medical director of cardiology at Sutter Roseville, performed 150 therapeutic catheterization procedures such as angioplasty and stenting on patients in acute myocardial infarction, last year. Fehrenbacher entered into agreements January with other interventional cardiologists so the service can be provided every day of the year, 24 hours a day, allowing the hospital to be designated by the county as a Heart Attack Center. If adopted, the Heart Attack Center protocol would work similar to a designated trauma center. Currently, patients who exhibit heart-attack symptoms are sent to the nearest hospital, even if that hospital cannot perform emergent angioplasty and stenting, according to Gary Zavoral, public relations specialist for Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region. “With heart attacks, the first 90 minutes are crucial,” Fehrenbacher said. “By having a system of Heart Attack Centers in place, those patients in acute myocardial infarction will be rushed to the hospital where they have the best prospect of surviving a heart attack and experiencing less damage to the heart. You want to give them the best chance possible.” Fehrenbacher and Sutter Roseville worked on getting a bill passed in the State Senate – SB 891 – last year that allows six community hospitals to serve as regional centers for outpatient emergent and elective interventional cardiology procedures, according to Zavoral. Previously, only hospitals that also have full-time heart surgery programs – such as Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento – could perform these elective procedures, as the heart surgery option provided a safety net if complications arose. However, angioplasty, stenting and other interventional cardiology procedures have become much safer and effective, according to Zavoral, and a March 2008 study by the American College of Cardiology showed that there was no difference in mortality whether a hospital has cardiac surgery backup or not. While SB 891 was signed by the governor, the Department of Health Services is still in the implementation stage. Fehrenbacher hopes the department will choose Sutter Roseville as one of the six pilot hospitals in the state. “I was happy to help get that bill passed,” Fehrenbacher said, “and I hope Sutter Roseville will be chosen as one of the pilot sites. Regionalization of our program means that we can continue to have these services offered in our community on a 24/7 basis. This will only make the great medical care Sutter Roseville provides even better.” Sutter Roseville Medical Center is affiliated with Sutter Health, a not-for-profit, community-based health system located throughout Northern California. For more information on Sutter Roseville Medical Center, visit the Web site at sutterhealth.org. ~ Staff report