By Colleen Flaherty

Killeen Daily Herald

It's a busy time for Metroplex Hospital, which has debuted a $23 million specialty services building and a neonatal intensive care unit within the past few weeks.

The hospital's newest addition is its $2.8 million Cardiac and Vascular Center catheterization laboratory. It opens to patients on Tuesday.

The Metroplex cath lab brings state-of-the-art vascular imaging to Killeen, said manager Tammy Rodriguez, a registered nurse.

"It's as different as if you went from a tube TV to LCD," she said of the lab's new two kilobyte vascular imaging system. "Each image has 4 million pixels."

People with a variety of health issues, including coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease, can visit cath labs for diagnostic services and procedures including angioplasties, lung biopsies and stents.

In most procedures, lab staff insert a small catheter into an incision in the patient's groin area. The catheter is then pushed through the femoral artery to the blockage or site in question, and X-ray or intravascular ultrasound images are captured by a large, C-shaped arm.

The hospital's old cath lab technology offered half that clarity, Rodriguez said. The difference can mean life or death for some patients whose internal problems, including heart blockages, are very small.

"You're talking millimeters," she said of some obstructions.

People whose blockages are life-threatening may be treated immediately with angioplasties or other procedures. The national standard for door-to-balloon time, meaning the time between when a heart attack patient arrives at an emergency medical facility and when a catheter reaches the affected area of the heart, is 90 minutes.

Even before the new facility was built, Metroplex met and often exceeded that standard, said Dr. Umad Ahmad, medical director of the hospital's cardiovascular program.

"Time is all about saving heart muscle," he said.

Previously, heart attack patients might have been flown by helicopter to Temple or Austin. The new cath lab will be open at all times for emergencies and further decrease door-to-balloon time.

It also demonstrate's Metroplex's dedication to the local community, staff said.

"If they're happy, we're happy," Ahmad said of patients. "We can provide them with the appropriate treatment, services and care."

The opening of the lab is also an opportunity for cardiovascular program staff to reach out to the community, Ahmad said. A heart awareness program, including screening for heart defects in student athletes, hypertension and cholesterol should kick into high gear in February, American Heart Month.

"Coronary (heart) disease kills more people than the top four cancers combined" in the United States, Rodriguez said.

Metroplex Health System is the primary health care provider for West Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties, with 289 physicians offering 42 medical specialties and a variety of wellness services. The 233-bed, multi-campus facility is a not-for-profit Christian organization operated as a community service by the Adventist Health System and Scott & White Healthcare.

Contact Colleen Flaherty at or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.

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