Experts in matters of the heart: cardio unit treating 35 coronary patients a week

ENGINE ROOM AT THE LAB: Orange’s award-winning heart nurses Lozzie Vardenaga, Maryanne Burgess, Meagan Johnson, Allison Hembrow, Maudy Lawrance and acting nurse unit manager Kath McMaster in the cardio catheter laboratory at Orange hospital where patients undergoing heart stenting are monitored. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0508cath

ENGINE ROOM AT THE LAB: Orange’s award-winning heart nurses Lozzie Vardenaga, Maryanne Burgess, Meagan Johnson, Allison Hembrow, Maudy Lawrance and acting nurse unit manager Kath McMaster in the cardio catheter laboratory at Orange hospital where patients undergoing heart stenting are monitored. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0508cath

WITH an increasing number of heart patients flown into Orange hospital at night since the 24-helicopter service started, more lives are being saved through emergency heart procedures.

Orange hospital says 35 patients a week who potentially could have died from a heart attack, are undergoing a stenting procedure in the cardio catheter laboratory unit.

The unit undertakes scheduled procedures four days a week, however it now has the capacity for a specialist team of a cardiologist and nurses available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to carry out emergency stenting.

Director of nursing Sue Patterson said the hospital has reduced its response times due to new NSW Ambulance technology and a highly skilled team.

Through advanced technology NSW Ambulance vehicles are able to relay heart diagnosis data direct to the iPhone of a cardiologist and the computers at the coronary unit.

“That means we have the data we need before the patient even arrives,” said Ms Patterson

“From the time the ambulance is at the front door to the time a patient is on the table its seven minutes, and we are very proud of that statistic,” said acting nurse unit manager of the cardiac catheterisation laboratory Kath McMaster.

Ms McMaster said the fact the unit now has the capacity to swing in to action at 2am in the morning to carry out a catheter procedure with a patient either brought in by road or flown in by the Orange-based helicopter, puts Orange hospital on a par with major Sydney hospitals.

“I have worked at Royal North Shore and St George hospitals and what we have here is equal to anything in the large city hospitals,” she said.

This Ms Patterson has honoured the 13 specialist nurses in the coronary unit by awarding them the annual director of nursing team award this week to mark International Nurses’ Day.

“We have a highly skilled team here who all have senior nursing skills with their tertiary skills enabling them to specialise in cardiology,” she said.

“Working in an environment like this allows our nurses to specialise in a particular career path,” she said.

Complimenting the cardiac nursing team at the presentation of their award, former patient Hugh Jachau said he will be forever grateful to the cardiology team for its care and attention when he was admitted for an emergency stenting procedure.

“These nurses are the most professional group of people I have ever encountered in my life,” he said.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

What is coronary stenting?

BLOCK BUSTER: This thin tube, or catheter, with a small balloon at the end is passed into an artery usually through the patient’s groin under a local anaesthetic and inflated to clear a blockage. 
 Photo STEVE GOSCH

BLOCK BUSTER: This thin tube, or catheter, with a small balloon at the end is passed into an artery usually through the patient’s groin under a local anaesthetic and inflated to clear a blockage. Photo STEVE GOSCH

CORANARY stenting is a procedure to unblock an artery which supplies the heart with blood.

The technique, known as angioplasty, is used to treat coronary heart disease or angina where the blockage or narrowing of arteries prevents enough blood from reaching the heart and risks damaging the muscle.

A stent is usually inserted under a local anaesthetic through the groin to the area of the heart that is problematic.

A tiny balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated with air, clearing any blockage and returning the artery to the correct width to allow blood to flow freely again.

As the tiny balloon inflates a small stainless steel mesh tube fitted around it and known as the stent, also widens until it reaches the same size.

After the stent is in place, the balloon is let down and the catheter is removed leaving the stent to hold the blood vessel open.

Acting nursing unit manager of the coronary care unit at Orange hospital Kath McMaster says the procedure is painless.

“Our patients don’t feel anything and we prefer them to remain conscious in case we need them to move during the procedure,” she said.

At Orange hospital stents ranging from $1000 to $20,000 are used in the procedure depending on the needs of the patient.

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