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Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital gets state okay for heart procedure

TARPON SPRINGS — Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital announced Wednesday that it has received a state license to perform elective angioplasty procedures.

The news came on the heels of the mid-January opening of the hospital's state-of-the-art $1.2 million cardiac catheterization lab, said marketing manager Jerry Touchton.

"That catheterization lab is right up to speed in terms of having the latest equipment and software and capabilities and it really complements our other cath lab, which was opened when we started the emergency angioplasties in 2005," Touchton said.

Angioplasty is a procedure to open narrowed coronary arteries to improve blood flow to the heart. Emergency angioplasties are performed when a patient is having a heart attack. Elective angioplasties are performed during diagnostic cardiac catheterizations.

The new Level I license for elective angioplasties, provided by the state Agency for Health Care Administration, is the first step to becoming an open-heart surgery center, long a goal of hospital officials.

To qualify for the Level II license, which would allow for those surgeries, the hospital will be required to perform at least 1,000 cardiology procedures within a year, of which 400 must be angioplasty procedures.

Helen Ellis is on track to meet those numbers.

From October 2007 to September 2008, the hospital performed 711 cardiac cath lab procedures and 48 emergency angioplasties.

Hospital officials said they expect to perform at least 300 elective angioplasties this year, Touchton said.

"A year from now we could be applying for (the Level II)," said hospital CEO Don Evans.

So far, the hospital has already performed about 15 of the elective procedures, said Touchton.

The new procedures could bring in about $540,000 in additional revenue this year, which would help offset a small chunk of the hospital's projected budget shortfall of $9 million.

An outpatient angioplasty procedure usually brings about $7,300 in Medicare reimbursement; an inpatient, $10,000, said Touchton.

The impact will be much greater if the hospital meets the criteria to qualify for a license for open-heart surgeries. Evans estimated that could bring in additional revenue between $3.6 million and $4.2 million.

Rita Farlow can be reached at or (727) 445-4162.

Fast facts

What is an angioplasty?

Coronary angioplasty (AN-jee-oh-plas-tee) is a medical procedure in which a balloon is used to open a blockage in a coronary (heart) artery narrowed by atherosclerosis. This procedure improves blood flow to the heart. Often a metal tube — or stent — is inserted to hold open the artery.

Angioplasty is a common medical procedure. It may be used to reduce damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when blood flow through a coronary artery is completely blocked. Angioplasty is used during a heart attack to open the blockage and restore blood flow through the artery.

It can also be used to improve symptoms of coronary artery disease, such as angina and shortness of breath.

Source: National Institutes of Health.

Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital gets state okay for heart procedure 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 10:14pm]
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