A PATIENT arriving at Lismore Base Hospital with chest pain, who might be having a heart attack, is likely to have their condition diagnosed sooner due to the establishment of a Cardiac Catheter Laboratory and the arrival of a new cardiologist in Lismore.
Dr Charles Itty, trained in India in interventional cardiology, heads up a team of doctors who now can diagnose blocked heart arteries and, when appropriate, put in a "stent" (small valve) to keep the artery open.
Dr Drew Mumford and Dr Adam Blenkhorn make up the team in the specialist cardiology clinic.
"About a third of coronary angiograms show the patient needs either a stent or a bypass operation," Dr Mumford explained.
"Once we have seen which it is, we now can perform the stent surgery here in Lismore, saving time and expense for patients who previously may have had to travel to a metropolitan hospital to get either procedure done.
"We have done about 2000 diagnoses in this unit since May 2010, so we know the need is there.
"This is a high retirement area with a big proportion of ageing people. Hopefully in the future when funding allows, we'll have a cardiothoracic surgeon here and we'll also be able to do bypass surgery at Lismore."
Dr Mumford, who has worked as a cardiologist in Lismore for the past 11 years, told The Echo that putting catheter laboratories in regional and rural hospitals had been a great advance in health in NSW.
"Since this catheter lab has been operating, we've done maybe 35 interventions on patients who otherwise would have had to go to Sydney," he said.
Dr Itty said he would like to see the lab open 24/7. At present it is open three days a week, due to funding constraints.
When it's not open, patients with blocked arteries can be treated with clot-busting medication, a procedure known as thrombolysis, Dr Itty said.