By Jessica Lovell
Guelph General Hospital is about to open the doors to a brand new operating room that is expected to make the hospital the go-to place for surgery to treat diseases of arteries and veins.
High-tech lights and computer monitors are suspended from the ceiling of the room on adjustable arms. In the middle of the room sits an operating table; from a track on the ceiling, an X-ray arm extends, half circling the table like a giant C.
“It’s state-of-the-art,” said operating room director Jennifer Griffin.
The newly constructed room is what is known in the medical community as a hybrid OR. It is intended to be used for vascular surgery – specifically, the minimally invasive kind – but it can also be used for open surgeries.“Looking forward and being strategic about things, it is about having options,” said Griffin. “That’s the true meaning of a hybrid.”
For now, the space will be used by three vascular surgeons and a staff that includes anesthetists, assistants, nurses and X-ray technologists.
The room is the realization of a dream for one of those surgeons.
Dr. Hamid Nasser went to Belgium to do additional training in minimally invasive vascular surgery and came back with the idea of building in Guelph a similar facility to the one he had trained in.
“It allows us to provide better care to the patient,” he said of the new room.
“It’s a team effort. Without the support of everybody, this idea would have died,” he said of the hospital’s ability to realize the goal.
Among the procedures he will perform in the space is something called EVAR, standing for Endo Vascular Aneurysm Repair. It is a procedure that involves using a catheter to insert a stent under X-ray guidance to repair damaged blood vessels without the need to make a large incision.
The new OR “opens the door for us to do those procedures in a better environment,” he said. The environment provides better imaging technology, and “if you see where the problem is, obviously you can treat it better,” said Nasser.
It also allows surgeons to do imaging and surgical procedures during the same visit in cases where both types of procedures might be required, instead of asking the patient to make two trips to the hospital, Nasser said.
But what is perhaps more significant, it allows them to do the procedures here in the Guelph area.
“The citizens of this community will have access to state-of-the-art care close to home,” said Nasser.
About four years ago, Guelph General won its bid to convince the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) that it could be the regional provider of elective vascular surgeries. It got the program, and treats about 1,500 patients a year from the Guelph, Kitchener and Cambridge areas, said Nasser. But getting the new OR is a milestone for the program.
“This will solidify the image of a regional vascular program,” said Nasser, noting also how unusual it is for a community hospital to be home to such a regional program. “You don’t see it in many community hospitals around the province.”
The facility puts Guelph on the map and will help the hospital to attract more donors, without which it cannot function, said Nasser.
The facility’s specialized equipment was purchased with $1.6 million from the Foundation of Guelph General Hospital’s MRI & More fundraising campaign.
But it will also mean the hospital will be able to attract more talented physicians, and in turn be able to leverage more money from the province, said Nasser.
He also hopes it will lower the wait times for vascular surgery, another significant benefit to patients.
“The guideline is to operate within two months, but the reality is they have to wait three to four months sometimes,” said Nasser.
In the meantime, there is still a little work to be done, including cleaning, sterilizing and sealing the room against the spread of infection.
Staff will get training and education on the room on Monday to give the surgeons a chance to give the new equipment a spin, although they have all worked with the same type of equipment in other centres so it is not entirely new to them, said Griffin.
“To see it come to fruition, we’re all super excited and super proud,” said Griffin.
Medical procedure ‘amazing’ says patient
Inez Tucker knows the pain of waiting for vascular surgery all too well. She was referred to Guelph General Hospital’s Dr. Hamid Nasser last June because of pain in her legs that was preventing her from walking anything but very short distances.
Nasser diagnosed her with peripheral arterial disease, which causes arteries to become narrow or blocked.
“It affects your everyday lifestyle,” said Tucker, describing the difficulty she had climbing the stairs to her third-storey apartment in Cambridge.
One time, halfway up, the pain was so great that she couldn’t continue the climb. “I sat in the stairs and cried,” she said.
Tucker was treated with minimally invasive surgery, which meant she was able to avoid the longer recovery that goes along with an open procedure, but she had to wait until November – more than four months after her referral to Nasser.
“I was calling all the time to see if there were any openings,” she said.
But she was grateful that she was able to have the surgery close to home and with minimal recovery time. “In a few hours I was done,” she said. “It is amazing the difference that it has made for me.”
The new hybrid OR, which will be specifically dedicated to the kind of surgery that helped Tucker, will see its first surgical patient on Tuesday.