University Hospitals investing $4.5 million in catheterization labs in Portage County

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RAVENNA — Portage County residents may soon be able to receive top-notch heart care more quickly as University Hospitals Portage Medical Center plans to replace its existing heart catheterization lab and add another.

Tom Conner, director of ambulatory services at UH Portage, said the current cath lab is functional but — at 16 years of age — no longer state-of-the-art.

“It still works, but it’s approaching the end of its life,” he said. “We have a critical need in the community. In 2015, we did about 200 heart caths; this past year, we did about 1,800. Right now, per cath lab we have the busiest single cath lab in the UH system.”

UH Portage Medical Center handles about double the number of the second busiest heart cath lab within the system, he added.

The cost of two new heart catheterization labs will total about $4.5 million, according to Conner, and the first one should be completed by the end of the year.

“We’re hoping to start construction on the first cath lab fairly soon,” he said.

When blockages form in the arteries, Conner said, the cath lab doctors can perform surgeries to insert a stent, which resembles a tube, to open the artery where the blockage occurs. Typical patients may notice chest pain or experience an emergent heart attack. Others may have less urgent blockages and visit the labs for non-emergency surgeries.

Conner said the stent — a small, tube-like structure — is inserted surgically often through the groin. A tiny balloon-like structure opens up the blockage and the stent is inserted to keep it open.

“The national goal to do that, from door to balloon time, is within 90 minutes,” he said. “Our average is less than 60 minutes, and we’ve done that in less than 11 minutes.”

Conner also said it’s a good idea to have two cath labs because if something goes wrong in one, the other can serve as a backup.

Improved video screens and other medical equipment will enable doctors to conduct more precise surgeries, which are done via video, added Conner.

“The biggest changes are video quality,” he said. “It allows doctors to see blockages in veins and arteries a lot easier.”

The majority of the money needed for the new labs is for state-of-the-art equipment, he added. Each lab will be 652 square feet, and the preparation and recovery room is another 1,000 square feet. That room also will be shared by radiology, which shares some staff with the cath labs.

Shawn Gordon, executive director of the UH Portage Medical Center Foundation, said the foundation will work this year to raise about $1.5 million for the second cath lab, which is dependent on fundraising.

“We have a very, very long way to go,” she said. “The foundation doesn’t necessarily have the financial wherewithal to pay for the entire project. We’ll really be reliant on individual donors.”

Two events are planned this year, which should help raise funds for the project: The foundation’s golf outing, which takes place July 17 at Windmill Lakes Golf Club in Ravenna, and an evening gala at Thorncreek Winery on Oct. 12.

For more information about the golf outing and evening gala, call Gordon at 330-297-8801 or shawn.Gordon@uhhospitals.org.

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, bgaetjens@recordpub.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.