USC-VHH Unveils New IR Cath Lab


Attendees were able to tour the Cath Lab, which will be formally open to patients early this summer. Photo by Bethany BROWN

Local hospital now provides immediate help to people in cardiac distress.

By Bethany BROWN

The USC Verdugo Hills Hospital held a celebratory opening of its newly developed Interventional Radiology/Cardiac Catheterization Lab (IR Cath Lab) on April 28. The lab had been in construction for just over a year and marks a huge leap in the hospital’s ability to provide immediate help for those suffering with cardiac complications.

Cardiac catheterization examines the vessels, valves and chambers of the heart. The IR Cath Lab at USC-VHH will be used by cardiovascular surgeons to perform specialized or more invasive surgeries that require simultaneous imaging, like tracing arteries, that will allow doctors to quickly identify internal problems when patients enter the Emergency Room. Previously, patients who had arrived at the hospital with coronary issues that required a more in-depth diagnosis or specialty treatment were transferred to another hospital, which delayed treatment significantly.

“It was a really big celebration; it’s been a few years in the making to finally get to this point,” said Hambik Tankazyan, MD and medical director of the IR Cath Lab. “We’re all proud of this accomplishment and couldn’t be happier that we now have the means to serve our patients in ways that we were not able to before.”

Dr. Tankazyan said the Lab is equipped with leading technology seldom available throughout the country – only about one in every 20 hospitals presently have access to the equipment that USC-VHH now does. Procedures that this equipment allows are the insertion of stents and pacemakers, the opening of blockages within the arteries and using angiography to look at arteries in the legs, abdomen, brain and heart, among many others.

“This technology really is cutting edge,” he said. “Not only is it state of the art, new and incredibly advanced, but we can have people get the care they need in their own community without having to go elsewhere. We can now internally diagnose and treat coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 655,000 Americans die from cardiac disease and about 805,000 have a heart attack each year. In Los Angeles County, heart disease is the leading cause of death, and a major cause of disability.

As for who’s at risk, Dr. Tankazyan stressed that the older people get, the higher the risk of cardiac disease is – with people in their 60s and 70s being the ages most at risk. He urged community members to know the signs of cardiac disease, get regular checkups with a primary care physician and adopt a more active and healthier lifestyle so hopefully they will not find themselves in a position of needing an invasive procedure.

“When we think about risk, we think of modifiable risk factors that usually include smoking, diet and exercise,” he said, suggesting cardio like brisk walking to “get the heart pumping a few times a week,” quitting smoking and consuming less red meat and salt. It’s also important to ensure any high blood pressure, high cholesterol and or diabetes are well controlled and monitored.

Ultimately, Dr. Tankazyan said now that the Lab is officially open the goal is to treat more patients in the community by providing the needed procedures and encourage people to recognize just how prominent an issue cardiac disease is in America, take their health seriously and know which risk factors they have and take the steps to control them.