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EDINBURG — A new $6 million investment at South Texas Health System Edinburg is aiming to prevent lower limb amputations among residents with cardiac or diabetic conditions, an all-too familiar occurrence in the Rio Grande Valley.
Dr. Scott Fylling runs the new cardiac catheter laboratory at STHS Edinburg and said Wednesday that the facility is designed to diagnose and treat cardiac disease as well as implement the system’s limb salvage program for patients with peripheral vascular disease (PVD) or peripheral artery disease (PAD).
The USA Vascular Center reports that around 73,000 lower limb amputations are performed annually in the U.S. According to STHS, Hidalgo County has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the state.
Considering the risk factor for amputations being greater among a population that struggles with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, like in the Rio Grande Valley, Fylling said lab physicians will conduct “anything and everything that deals with an artery or a vein.”
“If there is blood going anywhere in your body, kidneys, spleen, liver, we can look at it,” Fylling said as he walked the lab with The Monitor on Wednesday.
The new lab includes two cardiac catheterization examination rooms and six beds that will be used for both preoperative and postoperative procedures.
Among the features at the lab is an X-ray camera that can photograph images at 360-degree angles, which is important to detect blocked arteries.
“This is the most advanced Philips system when it comes to our cath lab,” Lance Ames, CEO of South Texas Health System Edinburg and Childrens, said. “I’ve talked with vendors from all over the state of Texas and they’re saying this is the most advanced system that they’ve seen. It’s an incredibly clear image.”
Not only does the lab include a camera that produces clearer images, but it also includes newer systems called Clarity that allows them to control the amount of radiation a patient is exposed to.
“It’s not only state of the art but we have the ability to decrease the amount of radiation that the patient will receive as well as the staff,” Fylling said, adding that the device allows about 60% of a normal dose. The new lab also contains an Assist device which helps decrease the amount of contrast — a dye used to make arteries visible — a patient receives by about 60% to 70%.
Each catheterization room will have the ability to evaluate arteries and veins with high-tech equipment which will be operated by a three-man team.
“Our goal is to make this like a critical limb ischemia program,” Fylling said, adding that the focus of the program is to avoid amputation.
Fylling stressed that amputations are not uncommon in the Valley and, in fact, has the second-most amputations in the state.
“I believe we are going to be the only ones that really get into the limb salvage,” Fylling said. “Here is the perfect place to put in something we can fix legs, and fix the arteries going into the arms.”
The new lab has been converted from an old emergency room where exam rooms, each one costing $1.5 million, are now located and will be staffed by 12 medical professionals — who will be new hires — within a 4,500-square-foot space.
Fylling further explained that the overall goal of the new lab is to focus more on PVD, which he believes to be an underserved area in the Valley, and that the lab will also serve as an expansion to the STHS Heart hospital in McAllen now that cardiac care will be available in Edinburg.
“This will take care of unnecessary transfers, this will take care of the ability to look at a patient and see what’s wrong, diagnose and come up with a treatment plan before they leave, or potentially we fix while they’re right here,” Fylling said optimistically.
The preop and postop area will be open from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. South Texas Health System Edinburg is located at 1102 W. Trenton Road in Edinburg. A ribbon cutting will be held at the facility for a ceremonial opening at 11:30 a.m. Friday.