Home News Local news FIRST-EVER HEART SURGERY SET FOR ST. CROIX

FIRST-EVER HEART SURGERY SET FOR ST. CROIX

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Feb. 27, 2002 — For the first time ever on St. Croix next Tuesday, a team of doctors at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital will conduct potentially life-saving heart surgery.
Hospital officials have scheduled two cardiovascular unit patients for angioplasty procedures, to be performed by Dr. Kendall Griffith, Dr. Michael Potts, Dr. Dante Galiber and the cardiac team, according to Thomas Robinson, CEO of the hospital.
The invasive procedure has never been done before at Juan F. Luis, said Carol Lee, the hospital's public relations director. A helicopter will be on standby to transfer a patient to one of three hospitals in Puerto Rico in the unlikely event of an emergency requiring open heart surgery, she said.
A test flight was scheduled for Tuesday, but was cancelled due to bad weather. A dry run will be scheduled again before the operations, Lee said.
"We want to know the fastest way to move the patient to the helicopter" if there is a problem, she said. "Whenever we do an angioplasty, we'll always have a helicopter ready. But we don't anticipate any problems."
In angioplasty, a balloon-tipped catheter is passed through the arteries of the heart and inflated, in order to clear blockage that could cause a major heart attack, stroke or death.
Coronary artery disease is the number-one cause of death in the Virgin Islands, Lee said. Since the opening of the cardiac catherization laboratory at JFL Hospital, about half the patients tested have had to go off-island for the procedure.
The hospitals's cardiology team, headed by Griffith, has already taken three local patients to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami for successful angioplasty procedures. The cost and discomfort of leaving home for such an operation, however, is a problem. "The ability to perform angioplasty will enable patients with heart attacks to receive state of the art treatment here at home on St. Croix," Lee said. "This is not only a financial savings but also a psychological benefit for the patients and their families. It is always best to be in familiar surroundings during illness and treatment."

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