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Aspen Valley Hospital surgeries go high def

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times
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ASPEN – Surgeons at Aspen Valley Hospital are getting a better look inside their patients thanks to the same high-definition technology that is bringing a clearer picture to TV viewers in their living rooms.

The hospital’s three surgical suites have been outfitted with new monitors, not unlike television screens mounted from the ceiling, plus lights and camera equipment for use in arthroscopic surgery – when a procedure involves only small incisions and the surgeon depends on a camera to see inside the patient’s body.

Installation of the new equipment, an $825,000 outlay for the hospital, began in December and was completed in early January. It’s being used in orthopedic and abdominal surgeries – prime candidates for the less invasive arthroscopic approach.

The HD difference is significant, according to Dr. Tomas Pevny, of Orthopaedic Associates.

“It’s basically the difference between watching non-high definition TV and watching HD TV,” he said. “When you’re working inside somebody’s joint, that’s very important. You’re less likely to miss small tears and things. The high definition part of it is huge, as far as a surgery is concerned.”

There are other benefits, as well. For one, the new equipment, manufactured by San Jose-based Stryker, takes up less space in the operating room.

“There’s more room for the nurses and doctors to move around,” Pevny said. “Basically, you’re not running into things.”

And, where the operating rooms previously had one fixed monitor, each room now has two monitors that can be moved into the desired position above the operating table.

Also above the table, two circular arrays of LED lights have replaced what was a single, bright xenon bulb. Under the old arrangement, anyone standing in the bulb’s beam could cast a shadow over the patient. Now, a surgeon blocking half of the LED lights in one fixture would still have uninterrupted light from that fixture.

LED light is also beamed through the camera that projects images on the monitors.

The previous camera system, also lighted with a xenon bulb, got hot enough to light the fabric draped over a patient on fire if someone set the device down in the wrong place, according to Todd Bartlett, director of surgical services at AVH.

The LED lights heat up, but not to that degree.

“It’s much safer for the patient,” he said.

In addition, xenon bulbs are expensive to replace when they burn out, and the LED lights have an expected life span of 15 to 20 years.

The camera itself is a light-weight device, not much bigger that a golf ball, hooked up to the equipment and outfitted with a tube for insertion into a patient.

The new cameras, like the old equipment, allow a surgeon to take photographs during a procedure. In the case of a joint repair, for example, before and after shots are typical. A digital recording of the entire procedure is also possible, Bartlett said.

The HD technology could speed up a surgery, reducing the chances of infection for a patient and reducing the time the individual spends under anesthesia, Pevny said.

“If you see things, you can treat things quicker,” he said.

janet@aspentimes.com


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