September 5, 2006 > Washington Hospital Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Cardiac Surgery
Washington Hospital Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Cardiac Surgery
Early Days of Heart Surgery to Today’s Leading-Edge Technologies Chronicled on InHealth Television Program
In the mid-1970s, Dr. Robert Pipkin was a cardio thoracic surgeon at Stanford Hospital when he noticed that many of his heart surgery patients were residents of Fremont and the surrounding area. From that moment until the first open heart surgery was performed at Washington Hospital in 1986, he was determined to bring quality cardiac surgical care to tri-city residents.
Twenty years later, Washington Hospital boasts a top-rated cardiac surgery department complete with highly trained medical staff and leading-edge surgical equipment thanks to Pipkin’s vision.
The story of how a community hospital created a cardiac surgery program from the ground up that rivals Stanford and other university medical center heart programs will be told in an upcoming pilot segment of Inside Washington Hospital. The Heart Surgery Program will begin airing in September on Washington Hospital’s InHealth Channel on Comcast Channel 78. The show is hosted by Dr. John Thomas Mehigan, a vascular surgeon who started at Stanford in 1974 with Pipkin and came over to Washington Hospital with him and the doctors’ group they founded called the Bay Area Cardiovascular Medical Group.
Not long after he started working at Stanford, Pipkin contacted Richard Warren, Washington Hospital’s CEO at that time about starting a cardiac surgery program. By the early 1980s, the time was right and Pipkin was asked to bring his surgical team over to Washington Hospital to start the program.
Pipkin’s team began the two-year process of analyzing available staffing and equipment and building a top-notch surgical program, which included surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other medical staff. The decision was made to use Washington Hospital staff and train them at Stanford.
"The Washington Hospital administration made the commitment to build the program and it was a substantial commitment," said Pipkin, who retired from cardiac surgery in 2004 and is now quality advisor for the hospital. "But it was worth it for our patients. They could now get top quality care at their own community hospital closer to home."
Today Dr. Sang Lee heads the Washington Hospital cardiac surgery program, where about 200 heart surgeries are performed each year. That number is likely to increase as the population ages and the number of people with heart disease grows. About two-thirds are coronary bypass surgeries, which improve blood flow to the heart with a new route or "bypass" around a section of clogged or diseased artery.
Cardiac Surgery Program on Leading-Edge
"Twenty years ago, if you lived in the tri-city area and you needed heart surgery, you went to Stanford," Mehigan said. "Today you come to Washington Hospital for the best cardiac care around."
The hospital uses leading-edge technologies, including minimally invasive robotic surgeries and "off-pump" coronary artery bypass surgeries that are performed while the heart is still beating. The robotic system allows surgeons to use very small incisions for surgeries that would otherwise use much larger ones, reducing hospital stays and recovery times for heart surgery patients.
Instead of stopping the heart and putting the patient on a heart-lung machine during coronary artery bypass surgery, beating-heart or off-pump surgery is on the forefront of cardiac surgical techniques. Off-pump surgery is a good option for some heart patients. Because the heart continues to beat during the procedure, fewer transfusions are needed and the risk of stroke, lung and kidney complications after the surgery are decreased.
Endoscopic vein harvesting has also helped reduce recovery times and improved outcomes. For bypass surgery, a vein must be used from another part of the body, usually the leg. The endoscopic procedure allows the vascular surgeon to remove the vein through a much smaller incision than previously required.
Washington Hospital surgeons are experts at mitral valve repair and have developed advanced surgical techniques for treating atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat.
"We have seen incredible advances in cardiac surgery in the last 20 years," Pipkin said. "I’m proud of what we started at Washington Hospital."
For more information about Washington Hospital and the InHealth Channel, visit www.whhs.com, click on "For Our Community" and select "InHealth Channel" from the drop-down menu or call (800) 963-7070.
The InHealth program schedule is published weekly in the Tri-City Voice and posted on Washington Hospital’s website at www.whhs.com. InHealth Channel 78 is available to Comcast subscribers in Newark, Union City and Fremont.