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September 12, 2011

Hybrid Suites Bring Cutting-Edge Cardiac Care to Smaller ORs

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These days, cardiac surgeons can conduct minimally-invasive procedures using robots, advanced imaging and videoconferencing equipment. Unfortunately, however, these new toys take up a lot of real estate.

What’s more, if the minimally-invasive approach doesn’t work, patients may  have to transferred rapidly to traditional surgery centers, possibly risking complications in the process.

How can hospitals take advantage of these new minimally-invasive technologies if their operating rooms are squeezed for space? Hybrid ORs are an expensive — but arguably lifesaving –- solution.

While less than 100 hospitals have installed hybrid ORs to date, the concept is becoming popular. Not only do they offer cardiologists a wide range of options, they poise hospitals to support a new array of heart procedures recently approved by the FDA.

Hybrid ORs combine traditional open-heart surgery equipment with cutting edge tools such as robotic surgery equipment and high-tech imaging systems. They allow surgeons to conduct minimally-invasive cardiac procedures  at one moment, then switch to another solution in moments, on the spot, if the situation calls for a change of strategy.

According to one consultant, hybrid ORs are best built in operating rooms which offer at least 800 square feet of space and whose ceilings at at least 10 feet high. The room will need to integrate the use of advanced visualization software which draws on MRI or CT data to create 3-D heart images.

Not only do hybrid rooms allow greater access to high-tech surgical options, they also support a wider range of specialists than traditional ORs do, including interventional cardiologists, electrophysiologists, neurosurgeons, structural heart specialists and vascular surgeons, notes a piece in Diagnostic and Interventional Cardiology.

According to one estimate, the hybrid rooms can cost anywhere from $1.5 million to $9 million, if recent installations are any guide. But they’re worth it if they improve a patient’s recovery time and reduce complications, gains that supporters say are quite feasible.

Not only that, hybrid ORs can still be valuable even when specialized cardiac procedures aren’t involved. For example, hybrid ORs can still be used as a cath lab, electrophysiology lab or standard operating room.

While this solution will be too expensive for many hospitals today, my bet is that it’s going to become a standard approach over time. If there’s a need, I’m pretty confident vendors will step up and make the hybrid suite available to just about anyone.

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