Health care goes high-tech

Local hospitals and health networks are bringing advanced medical technology to northern Nevada, and Northern Nevada Medical Center continues to play a part in that progress.

A new outpatient program nearing introduction at the hospital in Sparks is mobile cardiac telemetry, or MCT. This is the first device of its kind used in northern Nevada.

This telecardiology device transmits a patient’s heart rhythm around the clock to the monitoring telemetry unit at CentRx Telehealth, which along with Northern Nevada Medical Center is owned by Universal Health Services. Trained technicians can monitor the patients 24/7, and the technology is HIPAA compliant and secure, so only the telemetry unit sees the patient’s data.

“If the data indicates an arrhythmia, a cardiologist is available 24/7 to review,” said Melinda Laidlaw, director, CentRx Telehealth Cardiac Monitoring Center. CentRx also provides the results of this diagnostic test to the patient’s physician.

A physician can order the MCT device before the patient leaves the hospital or from his or her office. The device can also be mailed to the patient. The MCT unit is a small box worn continuously by the patient, who only takes the unit off to shower. Thus the unit can monitor the patient’s heart rhythm through all activities of daily living and even during sleep.

“A physician orders the device for diagnostic reasons, for a complaint that has been checked by other methods without reaching a diagnosis,” said Laidlaw. It also is a treatment tool and is used when adjusting medications, to check heart’s response rate and rhythm. The MCT is intended only for patients who do not require acute care or monitoring in the hospital.

The great advantage of this innovation is its delivery of heart rhythm data in real time, all day and all night. The alternative devices are a Holter monitor and an event recorder. A patient wears a Holter monitor for up to 48 hours and then returns it to the hospital to download the data. A physician usually will employ a Holter monitor first and, if the results are inconclusive, move on to the MCT. With an event recorder, a physician and patient try to link symptoms with an event to the heart rhythm recorded by the device. The MCT continues to monitor the heart without depending on the patient to recognize an event or experience the symptom.

Northern Nevada Medical Center plans to offer MCT to patients throughout Nevada in the first quarter of 2016. They are in the beta testing phase now. Once fully implemented, CentRx will monitor patients from across the Universal Health Services nationwide network. Their beta testing includes patients in Pennsylvania. The CentRx Telehealth Cardiac Monitoring Center can monitor 350 patients now and has room to grow. They definitely plan to expand beyond Nevada.

To learn more about this telecardiology advance, call 844-805-7718.

Patients in Sparks and the surrounding area who require some types of surgery now have a new, minimally invasive option at Northern Nevada Medical Center. The hospital offers da Vinci robotic surgery for procedures such as removal of the prostate or a kidney, hysterectomies, gallbladder removal and hernia repair.

“Da Vinci brings a minimally invasive option to formerly open surgery types,” said Keith Covert, director of Surgical Services. Robotic surgery delivers a more beneficial repair, with much less bleeding, a quicker recovery time and many fewer days in the hospital following surgery. In January, NNMC will begin performing urologic surgeries using da Vinci.

Da Vinci surgery, which is also available at other surgical centers in the region, begins the same as a regular laparoscopy, although it soon changes. The robot is a patient cart with arms, which is placed next to the operating table. The surgeon connects the arms to tubes, called cannulas, in a process known as docking. Then the surgeon moves to a computer console to operate the robot. With the camera inserted through the small incision and the console’s graphics capability, the surgeon can view the surgical site in a super high definition, three-dimensional image. The third element of the da Vinci system is a video control tower, which transmits the video signals.

This technology provides several other advantages over traditional surgery. Da Vinci provides real-time, precise, hand, wrist and finger movements and can hyperextend the surgeon’s wrist movements; that is, it allows the surgical instruments to move farther than the surgeon’s wrist could manipulate them if he or she held the instruments directly. The technology also removes any tremor, which a surgeon might naturally experience after hours of performing a delicate operation. With traditional laparoscopy, the surgeon must move the control to the left when he or she intends to move the instrument to the right, and vice versa, because of the pivot point design. With da Vinci, the surgeon’s movements are much more natural relative to his or her body.

Many surgeons in our community are trained in the use of da Vinci. Before using a da Vinci robotic device, a surgeon must complete a training course and pass an examination using a simulator to qualify for separate hospital privileges. Some local surgeons have become so proficient in the use of da Vinci that they have qualified as trainers.

NNMC decided to invest in da Vinci because local surgeons wanted more opportunities to employ robotic surgery. Adopting the new technology has enabled NNMC to provide gynecologic and urologic surgical services.

“The hospital has seen significant growth in the use of da Vinci,” said Covert, “and surgery volume is up almost 18 percent over last year.” This investment allows more Sparks residents to receive the most recent advances in surgical care in Sparks, close to home.

While the skills of cardiologists and surgeons remain at the core of medicine, technology and innovations such as these enable these physicians to bring superior care to their patients.


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