Heart disease is not what it used to be. Don’t get me wrong though, there is still plenty to be concerned about. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the United States with about 600,000 annually. These deaths are largely preventable and it looks like we are finally getting a grip on them.  In fact, heart disease-related death has been steadily declining due to awareness and better treatment options.  Something just happened in South Florida that has a chance of bringing this number even lower. Let me explain.

In early March, the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute showcased its latest investment. A whopping $120 million expansion on the Baptist Hospital campus that includes the latest technologies and state of the art innovations, featuring the first North American installation of the new Phillips Azurion. What can this super machine do?

For starters, it’s much more than just a machine, it’s a group of technologies working together to help doctors facilitate the outcome of heart-related and other procedures of a little-known specialty called Interventional radiology.

What is Interventional radiology?

Interventional radiology is used for cardiology and procedures where doctors utilize minimally invasive techniques guided by real-time imagery of what’s happening inside the patient, and can be used to diagnose and treat diseases in almost the entire body.  This is especially useful for cardiology since less invasive and more precise treatments allow the patients to recover faster. Think about it, not that many years ago, the only recourse was to have open heart surgery, things have changed and Azurion takes it to a whole new level.

So, what is Azurion?

The manufacturer Royal Phillips calls it a next generation image-guided therapy platform. It’s basically a whole room setup with a variety of equipment that work together to conduct procedures where imaging is required. It includes an X-ray tube that delivers instant images with no waiting times while exposing the patient to ultra-low X-ray doses and maintaining the image quality. This is mounted on a movable arm and works with a detector that shows the doctors a high-resolution image of the patient in real-time. It allows doctors for example, to see the entire coronary tree in one single view. All of this is controlled by a touch screen module that allows the doctors to pinch and zoom on images and recall the different system positions.

Two of these Azurion-powered suites at the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute have a video system where people can sit outside the room and use an iPad to control what they are watching. This allows doctors, specialists and students to have an individualized view of the procedure.

Procedure cards are one of the ways Azurion makes it simpler and safer to treat patients. Basically, these cards can be set by procedure or by doctor and they can automate and standardize the system setup to increase the consistency of exams based on the procedure that’s being conducted. This is important because it prevents preparation errors.

What are the benefits of Azurion and these innovations?

The bottom line is simple. Having this state of the art imaging technology allows the treatment of previously untreatable diseases and creates more effective ways to treat a series of cardiovascular issues like blood clots in less invasive ways. Now patients can be seen by a multi-disciplinary team of experts that don’t need to be in the same room as the patient. With this technology, doctors can treat from aneurysms, heart rhythm disorders to defective heart valves in a more effective manner, minimizing the risk to the patient. The fact that the doctors are looking inside your blood vessels while they are performing these therapies and treatments is nothing short of amazing.

In a few words

The advantage of image-guided therapy procedures are many but the most important part is that they allow quicker recovery for patients so they can get back to their daily lives. Procedures that could not have been dreamt of just a few years ago, are now routine thanks to these technologies. It’s good to know that now doctors can have faster access to information and there is a high degree of automation that improves efficiency while also minimizing risk. I’m sure many lives will be saved and hope that heart disease can be a thing of the past in the not so distant future.