By Ann M. Colford

Sacred Heart -- When Sacred Heart's new west tower opens in the fall, women coming in for inpatient or outpatient treatment will find most women's services gathered under one roof rather than spread across the sprawling medical campus. Expanding beyond the basics of pregnancy and childbirth services, the Women's Health Center -- which will occupy two floors of the new tower -- offers treatments and educational services to women of all ages. Among the new programs is Heart-to-Heart, a cardiovascular health risk assessment program that launches on Feb. 11.

Contrary to popular belief, cardiovascular disease kills nearly as many women as men and ranks as the No. 1 cause of death in women. The Heart-to-Heart program assesses women's cardiovascular health to measure a patient's risk for developing heart and vascular disease and then reviews the results and gives recommendations and referrals for follow-up actions, if needed. The assessment costs $60; call (877) 474-2400 or (509) 474-2400 for an appointment.

Children's Hospital -- Much of the action at Sacred Heart these days takes place at its new Children's Hospital. New developments crop up at such a rate that even the public relations office has difficulty keeping up with everything, says Danita Petek. For instance, the Hematology/Oncology Center just received designation as a Children's Oncology Group site, meaning that staff may undertake research projects through the National Cancer Institute to study cancer in children and adolescents.

Pediatric pulmonologist Dr. Michael McCarthy will direct the new Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Clinic at the hospital, centralizing care for young patients with the disease. CF is a genetic disorder affecting the respiratory and digestive systems, and it afflicts about 30,000 children nationwide.

Other new specialists to join the hospital recently include Dr. Jeanne Hassing, an endocrinologist who specializes in the treatment of childhood diabetes. Rates of Type 2 diabetes in children have risen dramatically over the past two decades, making this specialty an important service in the community.

In February, the hospital will open a Neonatal Developmental Follow-up Clinic, in collaboration with Deaconess Medical Center, to help track the growth and progress of the community's tiniest patients. Until now, there has not been a system in place to maintain contact consistently with the parents of babies born prematurely or at low birth-weight after they go home. Now, Petek says, the clinic will plan regular follow-up visits at four-month intervals for the first year, with annual visits up to age three to monitor the babies' growth and healthy development.

Deaconess -- As the medical hub for the Inland Northwest, Spokane's hospitals and physicians often pioneer new treatments and technologies in the region, such as the use of therapeutic hypothermia for cardiac arrest, as reported in recent weeks at Deaconess.

On Jan. 12, a patient was brought into the emergency room in a coma and suffering from cardiac arrest. Using a cooling blanket, doctors lowered the patient's body temperature to about 93 degrees, cooling the blood and reducing the chances of neurological damage from the cardiac arrest. The technique proved successful and the patient went home on Jan. 22. The episode was the first use of mild therapeutic hypothermia in a Spokane hospital.

On Jan. 15, Dr. Steven Goodell of the Spokane Digestive Disease Center performed the first two Enteryx procedures in Spokane on patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The first was at Sacred Heart Medical Center and the second took place at Deaconess just an hour later. The Enteryx procedure is a minimally invasive surgical treatment option, performed on an outpatient basis, to reduce the symptoms of GERD by helping the lower esophageal sphincter keep stomach fluids and acids from backing up into the esophagus. GERD affects 7 million to 10 million people in the United States.

Dr. Steven Silverstein, a Spokane urologist associated with Deaconess, is the first in the area to use a new procedure called cryoablation to treat patients with prostate cancer, a disease that afflicts one in six men in their lifetimes. Cryoablation freezes the prostate, effectively killing all cancer cells. Recovery is rapid, with most men resuming full activities in two weeks, although erectile dysfunction is still an issue. The procedure is far less invasive than a radical prostatectomy, however, and appears to be just as effective.

Through the Healthy U program, Deaconess will offer heart attack and stroke assessments to the public beginning on Feb. 19. The tests include a complete cholesterol analysis and blood glucose test; blood pressure and pulse check; height, weight and waist-to-hip ratio measurements; and consultation with a cardiac prevention specialist who will make recommendations based on individual results. A $39 fee covers the costs of the tests; for an appointment, call (509) 473-7091.

Valley Hospital -- Valley Hospital and Medical Center completed a $17 million construction and expansion project during 2003, adding more than 50,000 square feet to the building. The new space enabled the hospital to open a new emergency room, outpatient area and operating rooms, as well as new cardiac and vascular labs. Along with adding bricks and mortar, the hospital acquired new equipment, including a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, increasing the in-house imaging services available.

As part of Empire Health Services, in September Valley Hospital began using a new digital image distribution and archiving system called PACS, or Picture Archive Communication System. Also in use at Deaconess, the system allows doctors in different locations to view images such as MRIs, ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) scans, as well as routine X-rays. Each image is tagged with a text report, a physician's medical analysis of the image, making it easier and faster for doctors to consult and coordinate a patient's treatment.

Kootenai Medical Center -- The physical expansion happening at Kootenai Medical Center (KMC) is but an outward sign of the growth taking place within the Coeur d'Alene medical facility. When completed, the addition will hold the North Idaho Heart Center, where North Idaho heart patients can receive a full range of cardiac care services under one roof. Construction is set to continue until May, but the services are already available, saving time and stress on patients and most likely saving lives.

Previously, patients coming in with symptoms of a heart attack would have received clot-busting medications and been sent on to Spokane for further treatment. Now, these same patients can receive cardiac catheterization, including balloon angioplasty and the placement of stents, right there in North Idaho. In addition, if needed, KMC surgeons can perform open-heart surgery. Medical studies have shown that the sooner a heart attack patient is treated, the better the outcome.

Another new tool available for North Idaho patients is PET (positron emission tomography) scan technology. In a PET scan, the patient is injected with an isotope called FDG that can identify metabolically active cells in the body. Because cancer cells generally grow at a faster rate than surrounding tissue, cancerous areas show up brighter and "hotter" than others, making the PET scan an important tool in the detection and treatment of cancer. PET technology is also used in the determination of brain function, such as with Alzheimer's Disease, and in the evaluation of heart muscles.

Because FDG must be used within hours of its manufacture, and because in this region it is made only in Portland or Seattle, PET scans have only been available to Northwest patients in those cities. Now, the FDG arrives every Wednesday via charter flight from Seattle and comes to KMC in a mobile testing unit. As patient demand rises, additional days may be added.

Holy Family Hospital -- The Holy Family Speech and Hearing Center opened for business about two months ago in renovated space at the Franklin Park Commons mall. The center treats a full range of hearing impairments and speech-related disorders in both adults and children. Audiologist Dr. Misty Shores works with patients to select, fit and dispense amplification systems including hearing aids. In addition, children with cochlear hearing-device implants and developmentally delayed children may receive speech and language therapy at the center. For adults, therapies for impairments due to neurological disorders, head trauma or cancer are available, as well as a service providing voice therapy for singers, teachers and other public speakers. To schedule an appointment at the Speech and Hearing Center, call 482-2193.

The staff and administrators are also especially proud of the hospital's recent accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Following a three-day visit last summer by JCAHO officials, the hospital received a score of 99 out of 100 possible points, a score reached by only two percent of the hospitals surveyed by the organization. The JCAHO standards measure a hospital's performance in patient treatment and infection control and respect for patient rights; reaccreditation is required every three years.

The hospital continues to offer classes, programs and support groups for the fast-growing North Spokane area.

Shriners Hospital -- The newest service at Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane isn't located inside the hospital, but you might find it parked outside. Last month, the Gizeh Temple Shriners of Burnaby, British Columbia, extended its Care Cruiser program to the Spokane hospital, ferrying patients and their families to the hospital in style in a full-size converted bus. While services to Shriners' patients are free, the costs and hassles of travel often present obstacles to families. But for patients in eastern British Columbia, the drive to Spokane just got a little easier. The hospital coordinates patient appointments to coincide with the scheduled Care Cruiser trips, easing the burden on parents and siblings.

Publication date: 1/29/04

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