New VA cath lab

Dr. Rajiv Gupta, second from right, provides a tour for interested parties, including Col. Patricia Darnauer, center, of the new heart catheterization lab at the Temple VA on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013.

Michael Miller | FME News Service

TEMPLE — The cardiac catheterization lab at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center will provide comprehensive care to veterans who get their medical care within the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System.

In the past, VA patients who needed cardiac catheterization had to go to other facilities, costing the VA millions of dollars and being something of a burden to patients and their families.

Construction costs for the project came to about $5.5 million and the equipment in the cath lab/hybrid operating room cost around $2.5 million. The room next door to the new cath lab is a mirror image that’s just waiting to be outfitted with equipment as soon as demand requires it.

“Cardiac catheterization is the heart and soul of cardiology in most hospitals,” said Dr. Rajiv Gupta, director of the VA cardiac cath lab. “Without a cardiac catheterization lab, you’re no different than a community hospital.”

Cardiac catheterization is a medical procedure used to diagnose and treat some heart conditions. A long, thin, flexible tube is put into a blood vessel in the arm or groin and threaded to the heart.

Contrast dye is added to the blood stream making vessels visible during the imaging process.

Most of the patients coming into the ER complain of chest pains and in order to diagnose a heart issue, a cath lab is required, Gupta said. “This technology is absolutely state-of-the-art.”

For the patient, the addition of a cath lab means continuity of care, excellent service and providing the best medicine with the patient’s best interest in mind, Gupta said.

The lab opened in June and has done more than 100 studies with no complications, chief of staff Dr. William Harper said.

A group from the VA central office was in town last week surveying the lab and found no problems, he said.

It’s expected the cardiology department will soon include electrophysiology, which looks at the heart’s electrical function.

“On Nov. 5, the department got approval to begin stenting,” Gupta said.

Dr. David Kramer, chief of cardiology at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, put the catheterization lab in at the Audie Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio in 1972.

“Let me just tell you there’s a big difference between now and then,” Kramer said.

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