Allegheny General Hospital debuts state-of-art suite for complex surgeries

Luis Fábregas
| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 11:41 p.m.

The addition of a $7 million hybrid operating suite to Allegheny General Hospital will help doctors perform complex heart and vascular surgeries and boost the hospital's surgical caseload, hospital officials said on Wednesday.

“As we take off as a network, this allows us to help our patients using the most sophisticated technology,” said Dr. Srinivas Murali, director of cardiovascular medicine at Allegheny Health Network.

Officials also debuted a 36-bed ambulatory care center on the third floor of the North Side hospital. The $3.8 million center will serve as the hub for patients who undergo outpatient surgeries, which have become a dominant part of health care.

Doctors at Allegheny General perform about 1,200 outpatient procedures a month, said Heather Myers, director of the ambulatory care center. Allegheny Health wants to increase the number of surgeries and discharge patients on a timely basis to free up space, she said.

The center's opening points to a serious challenge for Allegheny General's parent West Penn Alle­gheny Health System. The system has had a significant drop in outpatient surgeries in the past five years. There were 21,269 outpatient surgeries during the nine-month period that ended March 31, compared with 25,002 during the same period four years before.

“If WPAHS has been losing surgical patients, it would make sense to try to recapture some of them by opening new, state-of-the-art outpatient care centers,” said Stephen Foreman, associate professor of health care administration at Robert Morris University.

The 1,600-square-foot hybrid operating room suite will be used to perform several heart procedures, including aortic dissections in which there is a tear in the aorta.

Doctors also will be able to do imaging and surgery in the same location. The 3D-imaging system — the Siemens Artis zeego — shows all sides of an organ or vessel without surgeons having to make a single incision.

One of the prime beneficiaries of the new technology will be patients with narrowing of the heart valve, or aortic stenosis. Instead of traditional open-chest surgery, some undergo a procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement. Surgeons place a stent-type replacement heart valve into the body by threading a catheter through a vein in a leg to the heart.

“The surgeon can get wonderful anatomic detail, which allows him to be more precise,” Murali said. “It's been hard to do these procedures safely because of the lack of clarity and detail.”

Surgeons at Allegheny General have performed 50 transcatheter aortic valve replacements in the past year and hope to double the volume, Murali said.

At UPMC, surgeons have performed 159 such surgeries in the nearly three years they have used the technology, said Dr. Joon Sup Lee, co-director of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. A new hybrid operating room opened about a year ago in UPMC Shadyside, he said.

The new way to replace aortic valves is less invasive — a benefit for elderly patients who tend to suffer from the illness. The average age of a patient undergoing the procedure at UPMC is 84, Lee said.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or

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