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Hilo Medical Center Helping More People with Heart Problems

The Hilo Medical Center is helping more patients using cardiac catheterization, a new procedure for the Center, and hopes to add more much needed resources with its Rural Family Practice Residency Program.

The Big Island Weekly Reports:

Eddy and Susan Chen will be celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary this year, thanks in part to a new procedure that Mr. Chen, 90, received at Hilo Medical Center in October 2008.

Called cardiac catheterization, this procedure is new to Hilo Medical Center and Mr. Chen was the first lucky patient to make use of this innovative test. Dye is injected into the patient’s bloodstream, which allows doctors and technicians to see narrowing and blockages of the arteries. Now that Hilo has the capability of diagnosing such problems in cardiac cases, some patients no longer need to travel to Honolulu in order for their diagnosis to be made. After the doctor can determine what exactly is going on as a result of the catheterization, the patient might be sent to O’ahu for an angioplasty (a balloon-type device that is inserted into the blocked artery to expand it) or for stents to be implanted.

According to, a stent is “A tube designed to be inserted into a vessel or passageway to keep it open. Stents are inserted into narrowed coronary arteries to help keep them open after balloon angioplasty. The stent then allows the normal flow of blood and oxygen to the heart.”

Mr. Chen did need to travel to Honolulu soon after the procedure in Hilo, where he had an angioplasty procedure that involved placing stents in his arteries to open up the blockages to his heart. He says that his energy level is much better now.

Since October of last year, Hilo Medical Center has helped more than 20 patients with the catheterization procedure.

Cardiologist William H. Sammond performed the catheterization in Hilo and also traveled to O’ahu with Mr. Chen, where he also took care of the angioplasty and the stent installation. Dr. Sammond is working toward introducing these two procedures to Hilo Medical Center, but said: “Patient safety and satisfaction are our goal. We are confident that we’ll get there, but can’t say when that will be at this time.”

Cardiac catheterization is just one of many improvements and enhancements the Medical Center has instituted recently. The emergency room was expanded and modernized in September 2008 and can now care for 35,000 patients a year. Their CAT scan machine is one of the fastest on the island; radiology is going digital; and the simulation lab is the only one of its kind in Hawai’i outside of a university setting.

The simulation lab uses mannequins, or “robots,” to recertify, refresh and reacquaint hospital staff to ensure that they are properly trained in multiple procedures and treatments.

Hilo Medical Center Foundation executive director Lori Rogers stressed the importance of the Rural Family Practice Residency Program and their $1.5 million fundraising campaign to start it. “Just imagine how much more health care 23 additional physicians will provide our community,” stated Rogers. “When the program is up and running, we will have at least six board certified physicians graduate the program and six new physicians entering the program. Our hope is that after their three-year residency in Hilo a good portion of these physicians will stay on the Big Island.”

“The community needs to know that the program is within reach,” continued Rogers. “The clinic’s renovation is close to completion and the leadership is in place. Now we must raise the $1.5 million to put the program on a solid foundation.”

Donations to the program can be sent to the Hilo Medical Center Foundation at 1190 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo, HI 96720. For more information, call Lori at the Foundation office at 935-2957.

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