High-tech patient care: Renovated cardiopulmonary unit opens at hospital

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Cardiopulmonary patients are receiving diagnostic tests and procedures in a newly renovated space at Wilson Medical Center.

Echocardiograms, pulmonary function tests, diagnostic cardiac catheterizations, heart stent placements and much more are now performed at the front of the hospital in the area where endoscopies and colonoscopies were previously performed.

“We love being at the front of the hospital now,” said Nicole Worrell, assistant director of diagnostic and interventional cardiology, noting how much more convenient it is now for patients to enter.

Dr. Sanjay Cherukuri said he and other physicians can now provide more detailed and complicated heart evaluations at the hospital because of the newest technology that was added during the renovation.

The new area has separate spaces for different procedures. For instance, one pod is for special radiology procedures, such as placing IV ports for dialysis access. Other areas are used for respiratory care and stress tests. Each division has its own procedure rooms and recovery areas.

Worrell said the divisions make the workspace more efficient.

The high-tech cath lab provides the tools for new procedures and expands the ability to image the heart, said Chris Brown, associate administrator. Doctors can open more complex heart lesions now and continue to perform pacemaker and implantable cardiac defibrillator implants. There is also room to grow in the lab area as new procedures are added, including the ability to treat blood clots in the legs or lungs.

Brown said the new cardiopulmonary area is a $2.76 million investment and shows the commitment by Duke LifePoint to invest in the hospital.

“This is one way of elevating available technology to the citizens of Wilson,” he said.

The cath lab is currently used two days a week for vascular work in the legs and three days a week for heart catherizations. The goal is to jump to five days a week for cardiac care, Brown said.

During the days the cath lab is doing percutaneous coronary interventions — balloons and stents in coronary arteries — there is a standby critical care ambulance on site in case a patient needs emergency transport to Rex Hospital in Raleigh, Worrell pointed out during a tour of the unit.

Cherukuri said hospital staff members want to meet the community’s needs, and he encourages patients to let staff know what other services are needed.

The renovations and improvements of the cardiopulmonary unit are part of Duke LifePoint’s $82 million improvement plan that started almost two years ago and includes a “gut and rebuild” approach throughout the hospital. The commitment to capital improvements was part of the joint venture agreement when Duke LifePoint Healthcare acquired an 80 percent stake in Wilson Medical Center.

Projects already completed include the behavioral health unit that recently opened and the renovation of fifth-floor patient rooms. Upcoming projects include a gut and rebuild of the labor and delivery unit starting in the next few months as well as renovation of the operation rooms.

The sleep lab will be the next new area to open, Brown said.