Angiography for the masses
Late last year, Tygerberg Hospital’s division of cardiology unit unveiled its new and ground-breaking radial angiography service at the hospital. This could make a significant impact on the current bottleneck in the number of patients awaiting the procedure. The cardiology division’s latest addition has been hailed as the first of its kind on the African continent and is already making great strides in catching up to the backlog of patients in South Africa that require this procedure, as well as reducing costs to medical schemes. “The new facility will allow us to perform coronary angiographies and interventions such as stent placement, significantly quicker and ultimately cheaper than we could before. At present, the standard way to perform an angiography is to access the major arteries of the body through the groin of the patient. This presents a number of downsides. Firstly, the patient needs to be admitted to hospital overnight to recover from the procedure. Secondly, we are often unable to use this technique on patients that are deemed too frail,” explains consulting cardiologist at Tygerberg Hospital, Dr Hellmuth Weich. “In contrast, during radial angiography we go in through the smaller veins in the patient’s arm.
Dominic Uys It is a procedure that requires more specialised training on the part of the cardiologist, but it is considerably less invasive and the patient does not need to be admitted to the hospital ward for recovery. From that perspective it will clear up a lot of the bottlenecks that we have in the Western Cape at the moment, and the cost for the patient or the healthcare funder will be significantly reduced,” Weich continues. The state-of-the art facility operates under the directive of the not-for-profit foundation Sunheart and the division of cardiology, department of medicine, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital. The multi-million rand investment was made by key private and public partners, of which medical technology provider, Medtronic, is the principle. “In South Africa, more than 50 000 patients annually require advanced cardiac care such as coronary angiography. Yet, many don’t have access to these procedures and are, therefore, denied potentially life-saving treatments including coronary stents. The first dedicated radial suite at the division of cardiology will see a significant increase in the number of patients we are able to treat,” says Professor Anton Doubell, head of the Cardiology Division and director of Sunheart. Doubell described the procedure as a ‘ business class coronary intervention’, referring to the cost reduction. The facility will additionally be used to provide training for cardiologists throughout the country in the radial angiography technique. An additional funded training fellowship and the renovation of the lecture room, resulting in an ultra-modern lecture facility, has also boosted the teaching and training activities at the unit. The recent expansions to the division of cardiology also includes a new screening facility for the diagnosis and study of rheumatic heart disease in children. “We are busy conducting a study of 2 000 children in the region in order to gather information on, and diagnose, rheumatic heart diseases. The truth is that there exists very little data on the condition in South Africa, and we are hoping to find out more on the prevalence of the condition. It is a condition that mostly develops in children, and it is often either misdiagnosed or not caught at all. The only information of this kind that we have at present, dates back from the 1970s, and so far we are finding very different results from that, due in part, to the fact that we are using much more advanced and sensitive equipment,” says consulting cardiologist Dr Philip Herbst.