News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 1, 2013

Hux Heart Center showcases new cath lab

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A new catheterization lab facility had hearts pumping and nostalgia flowing for Union Hospital employees Thursday evening.

Located inside the Union Hospital Hux Heart Center, the new cath lab was the site of an open house as physicians and staff conducted tours and answered questions about an area of medicine ever changing.

Cardiologist George Bittar, M.D., said he’s been practicing locally more than 20 years, watching many changes over that period.

“Technology has changed,” he said inside the new suite of four cath labs.

A 33-member staff performs about 6,500 procedures a year, he said, reflecting on how previous incarnations were less compact, with employees constantly moving from one area to another. In addition to updated equipment, the new facility is designed to expedite work through its layout.

Better planning, coupled with improved technology, has shortened the “door to balloon time” of patients, down from a period of hours to what is now typically around 60 minutes, he said.

Technician Kevin Wilkey said he’s been a Union Hospital employee since 1986, in the cath lab since 1990. Like Bittar, he said advances in technology have been the biggest driver of change in the field.

“The entrance of the digital era, going from film to digital images, is probably one of the biggest things. That and stents,” he said.

Wilkey was among the staff members guiding tours and answering questions, showing the images from procedures on computer displays. In earlier years, the staff used cameras and film, whereas today’s equipment has become as advanced as any other field of technology.

According to information provided by the hospital, the Union Hospital Cardiac Cath Lab started in 1986 with only one lab, which had the capacity to perform seven scheduled procedures daily. The first coronary angioplasty was performed there in 1988, the same year the hospital began performing open heart bypass surgery.

In addition to four labs now, the new lab area offers three private consultation rooms and Innova 3100 and 4100 Interventional Imaging Systems equipped with table-side controls.

Chief Operating Officer Kym Phrank was among those participating who commented on the advances made in two decades.

“I can remember when the first cath lab opened,” he remarked.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or