Illawarra patients suffering complications from conditions like irregular heartbeat or a hole in the heart can now undergo surgery in the region for the first time.
Interventional cardiologist Dr Edward Danson said three new cardiac procedures were now available with the opening of the state-of-the-art cardiac catheter laboratory at Wollongong Private Hospital.
And Dr Danson said the new lab – in the Ramsay Surgical Centre which opened on Monday – would allow the introduction of more cardiac services in the future.
“We have started three new procedures for patients affected by valve disease or structural heart conditions,” he said.
“The first procedure is used to close a hole in the heart by implanting a small plug device. This is for patients who have had strokes or heart failure because of the defect.
“The second is for patients affected by atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. The procedure – which seals the left atrial appendage using an implant to prevent blood clots – helps patients who cannot take blood thinners because of bleeding risks.
“And the third, a valvuloplasty, is for patients with tightly narrowed heart valves. The procedure relieves pressure on the heart by inflating a balloon catheter across the valve.”
Dr Danson said the introduction of the second procedure – known as a left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO) – was particularly beneficial as atrial fibrillation affected a significant portion of the population.
He successfully completed the first four of these surgeries in Wollongong on Friday.
Wollongong Private CEO David Crowe said the new lab helped “fill the hole in heart services” in the region.
“It’s another piece of the puzzle that was previously missing in the region,” he said. “It saves patients, and their relatives, travelling to Sydney, making it more convenient for their family members as well.
“These procedures would not be available in many regional centres – they’re only available at a few centres in Sydney, so it’s a real bonus for Illawarra patients.”
Mr Crowe said the private hospital was attracting more specialists to the region.
Dr Danson, who studied at UK’s prestigious Oxford University and trained in London and Sydney, relocated to Wollongong 12 months ago.
“It’s great to have someone of Dr Danson’s calibre on our books,” Mr Crowe said. “And he has an excellent team supporting him.”