Researchers at Legacy Meridian Park Hospital expect 300 patients to volunteer for a national heart services study

TUALATIN - Legacy Meridian Park Hospital is the only community hospital in the Pacific Northwest that is participating in a cardiac procedure study that could ultimately decide if small hospitals across the nation can perform elective angioplasties.

In emergency cases, angioplasties and heart stent procedures are being done more frequently at community hospitals like Meridian Park which offers interventional cardiology services. Angioplasty is a procedure in which a tiny balloon is inflated and used to widen a blocked artery narrowed by the buildup of cholesterol-laden plaque. A stent is a wire mesh tube used to prop open an artery during angioplasty.

Studies have shown that emergency cardiac procedures done at a community hospital are just as safe when compared to procedures done at larger tertiary hospitals.

But what if it wasn't an emergency? With elective procedures, is it safer to have an angioplasty or heart stent procedure conducted at a larger hospital with an on-site surgical program? Or is it just as safe to have the procedures done electively at a community hospital? Is there even a difference in the outcome between the two settings?

A national study sponsored by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine aims to answer that question. The study will enlist more than 16,000 patients across the country to determine if therapeutic cardiac care is better served at larger hospitals or equally served at community hospitals.

Doctors involved with the study at Meridian Park hope to sign up 300 patients who will be selected at random for the study over the next two years. Some will get elective heart care at Meridian Park, and others will get the care at a larger hospital. Fifty Meridian Park patients have already consented to be a part of the study.

'(The study) has the potential to really change how we deliver cardiac care in small communities,' said Dr. Eli Rosenthal, a cardiac interventionalist and principal investigator of the research study at Legacy Meridian Park Hospital.

After this study 'either more (hospitals) will be doing (elective cardiac procedures) or no community hospital will be doing this,' Rosenthal said.

In the last decade, significant technological advancements have pushed the risk associated with emergency heart care procedures down to as low as two patients in 1,000 who need further open heart procedures, Rosenthal said.

But the American Academy of Cardiologists has continued to stick by a recommendation that angioplasties should not be performed at hospitals that do not have on-site heart surgery teams just in case a patient suffers complications during a procedure.

But until this year, no study existed to show whether elective angioplasties have a higher success rate at community hospitals or at larger hospitals. Rosenthal said the study will explore if any differences exist in the rates of success, outcomes and the number of emergency bypasses needed among patients in the two settings.

Rosenthal said researchers approached officials at Meridian Park about the opportunity to participate in the study.

In a press release from Legacy Health Systems, Rosenthal said, 'Our cardiologists and staff are skilled in these treatments, and it is beneficial to be able to provide these procedures to our patients in this community.'

Meridian Park has offered interventional cardiology services for the last two years. The services have been touted as yet another way the Tualatin hospital is trying to offer more health care procedures closer to patients' homes.

Allyson Anderson, Legacy Meridian Park Hospital administrator, said, '(The study) is another of the ways we strive to serve the community, not as a community hospital but as a full-service hospital that is part of our community.

'We've made a commitment to this community to be a state-of-the-art medical facility where most, if not all, health care needs can be met close to home, and we are demonstrating that with these added cardiology services.'

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