Health Innovations 2021
Metro Atlanta hospitals and medical practices remain at the forefront of healthcare, constantly adapting to meet the needs of our community. Find out about some of the latest technologies and innovative procedures they offer.
Emory Structural Heart & Valve Center: Heart Innovation in Action
John Plageman figured they were just symptoms of age. Sure, he was feeling some numbness in his left hand and some slight chest pain. And he couldn’t walk to the mailbox anymore without having to stop and catch his breath. But didn’t this happen to everyone once they reached their 60s?
“I’m 67 years old, and I was thinking that this was just part of me getting older,” says Plageman, a Griffin resident. Tests revealed his problem wasn’t due to age but to a blockage of his heart’s aortic valve that needed to be addressed immediately. Plageman was referred to Emory for a procedure with an unfamiliar name: TAVR.
“I’d never heard of it before,” Plageman says.
He wasn’t alone. TAVR—short for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, and pronounced “ta-ver” —was initially used only for high-risk, elderly patients who were unable to withstand open-heart surgery. But thanks to a series of clinical trials at the Emory Structural Heart and Valve Center, TAVR was approved for use in lower-risk patients, making the treatment available to the broader public.
For patients like Plageman, that meant a minimally invasive procedure, the ability to leave the hospital the next day, and a quick return to normal activities—as opposed to open-heart surgery, days in the hospital, and weeks of recovery. “When they explained TAVR to me, I was very excited, because I knew my recovery time was going to be much less,” Plageman says.
Although TAVR is used to repair aortic valves, Vasilis Babaliaros, MD, co-director of the Emory Structural Heart & Valve Center, said their researchers are working on similar approaches for mitral and tricuspid valves—which are trickier, he noted, because of their location between heart chambers that are actively beating.
“If you can figure how to do this less invasively, the patients do better. In fact, that’s what they want,” says Dr. Babaliaros. “They want to get the procedure done and get home.” Just ask John Plageman, who’s still amazed he was up and walking the floor with his IV bag just hours after undergoing the procedure.
“The feeling was amazing,” he says. “I couldn’t believe that I’d just had heart surgery.”
Georgia Urology: On the Front Line of Robotic Surgery
Robotic surgery continues changing the face of medicine. Physicians use robotic systems to over- come the challenges of certain surgical procedures. It’s something we utilize at Georgia Urology with fantastic results. As technology advances, it’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of robotic surgery.
Prior to joining Georgia Urology, I served as a military medical officer in the U.S. Army. One of my career highlights was working on a project to develop an automated robotic system to assist in the battlefield treatment and triage of soldiers. A future version of this system would allow the machine to assess situations and make surgical decisions itself.
My fascination with the evolution of robotic surgery led me to Georgia Urology, a true trailblazer in the field. At Georgia Urology, we have a comprehensive
collection of surgeons whose use of robotics ranges from cancer-based operations to reconstructive procedures. We’re constantly supporting and collaborating with each other in order to improve factors such as speed, outcome, and recovery. This makes our practice not only a leader in terms of volume, but also in advancing science at the procedural level.
As thought leaders in robotic surgery, Georgia Urology is often approached by the robotics industry to help develop, test, refine, and review new technologies, techniques, and products. In fact, I’m currently working with a company on an automated robotic system for kidney stone surgery. With hard work and collaboration, this robotic technology may one day revolutionize kidney stone management. Georgia Urology supports the ethical obligation of surgeons to bring new technology to their patient population and the medical field at large.
When considering a robotic surgical procedure, patients can confidently choose Georgia Urology. Not only do we stay on top of best practices, but we also help establish many ourselves. We remain on the cutting edge of robotic surgery, offering our patients a trusted source today and tomorrow.
Grady Health System: Leading the Charge Against Stroke
No one in Atlanta offers better, more comprehensive stroke and neurology care than Grady’s team of doctors, nurses, and technicians. When we opened the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center in 2010, we became one of the nation’s leading stroke treatment and research facilities. Today, we are known worldwide.
Grady’s dedication to research that moves medical care forward has helped redefine stroke treatment. Add state-of-the-art aftercare and you have a winning combination for great patient outcomes.
Dr. Aaron Anderson, medical director of Grady’s Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center’s neurovascular ultrasound lab, says the lab is an essential part of follow-up care.
“We follow patients during the first 30 days after a stroke and identify patients at risk of another stroke with a simple in-office test,” Anderson says.
Anderson and his team are among the best at what they do. The lab is one of only two Intersocietal Accreditation Commission accredited neurovascular ultrasound labs in Georgia.
“Our approach is patient-friendly,” he says. “We can perform the scan and follow-up in one visit. For patients who previously required multiple trips for labs, CT scans, and then follow-up appointments, this is a welcome alternative.”
Anderson came to the stroke center not long after it opened in 2010. A member of the acute stroke team, Anderson can view scans and prepare for patients even before they arrive at Grady.
“The human body can tell us so much. Just by touching patients, we can feel weakness and localize lesions. That’s essential when you’re chasing down a stroke,” he says. “For some patients, it means we can eliminate CT and MRI scans and focus on expedited acute stroke treatment.”
Perimeter Plastic Surgery: Optimizing Results and Improving Patient Care
Plastic surgery remains at the forefront of medicine in developing new and exciting technologies to improve patient care and optimize results.
With the shift away from textured implants, the majority of implant manufacturers have developed a wide variety of breast implants that range in different levels of cohesivity (thickness of the silicone gel). With the different styles of projection and height and width, patients are allowed to customize their implants based on their breast dimensions, which gives a boost in the surgeon’s ability to optimize the best results.
Furthermore, we are seeing improved patient satisfaction in their pain and discomfort after surgery with the use of a long-acting medicine that can be injected into the wounds before the surgery is finished. This can allow the patient to go home the day of their surgery instead of staying overnight, and also decreases the narcotic associated with nausea and vomiting that can occur. This has been a tremendous boost in improving overall patient satisfaction with both cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries.
We also have seen new developments in injectable fillers, which are used for injecting into the face. There are now products specifically designed to enhance lip volume as well as cheek volume that can make the patient appear younger and more refreshed. At Perimeter Plastic Surgery, Dr. Deutsch stays up to date with the latest technologies to give his patients the best results possible. Patients love coming to Perimeter Plastic Surgery, where they receive a personalized and caring approach from the staff. Many of our patients return for future treatments and recommend their friends and family to us.
Wellstar Health System: Breaking Ground and Saving Brains
Neurocritical care is a relatively new specialty—it’s only existed for about 15 years—but Wellstar Health System is already at the forefront of the emerging field, bringing life-saving technology to the area north of Atlanta and throughout northeast Georgia. It was Wellstar’s drive to innovate that attracted Dr. Rishi Gupta, director of the health system’s stroke and neurocritical care program.
“Wellstar is in a unique position. We are fortunate to have nine hospitals that provide stroke care in our health system, and each of them are positioned in communities where unfortunately there are high stroke rates in the metropolitan Atlanta area,” Dr. Gupta says. “Living in the stroke belt here in Georgia, it is imperative that we provide cutting-edge care for these patients.”
The community now has top access to life-saving stroke care, with the addition of thrombectomies at Wellstar North Fulton Hospital. The minimally invasive procedure involves using a catheter, inserting it through the leg, and navigating it to the brain to unclog the artery. Surgeons never have to cut the brain.
“The best thing about this procedure is that one in every four patients who receive this procedure actually goes back home, which is remark- able,” Dr. Gupta says. “When I was in training, that was just unheard of. It has been a life-saving, game-changing thing for stroke treatment.”
At Wellstar, every patient has an expert team on their side. Our vascular and neurovascular surgeons work alongside cardiologists and other specialists for a multidisciplinary, personalized approach for every patient.
“All of us are aligned to taking care of the patient first,” Dr. Gupta says. “Whether a patient has a stroke or another condition, such as epilepsy, migraines, or multiple sclerosis, we’re close to home and have top-of-the-line treatments to help them return to routine.”
AllSpine Laser & Surgery Center: Gold-Standard Treatment
Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) has become a new, gold-standard spine technique because it may reduce morbidity and recovery times. At AllSpine Laser & Surgery Center, our board-certified neurosurgeons offer endoscopic spine surgery (ESS), which is a MISS technique that utilizes an endoscope to treat herniated, protruded, extruded, or degenerative discs that are a contributing factor to leg and back pain. The major advantage of the endoscope is that it allows for the procedure to be done through a very small incision with minimal tissue damage, while allowing direct visualization of the desired anatomy.
Potential benefits include small incisions and hyper-targeting of the surgical site, which means fewer traumas to skin, muscle, and soft tissues, resulting in less blood loss and a faster recovery. Furthermore, most ESS procedures can be completed in about one hour, allowing the patient to be back on their feet a few hours following post-operative recovery.
FusionSleep: Atlanta’s Top Sleep Doc Increases Access to Sleep Medicine
If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. Dr. Heidi Riney, medical director of FusionSleep and five-time winner of Atlanta magazine’s Top Doctor award, says that sleep disorders are very common.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the acclaimed sleep center has transformed its operations by embracing a telehealth platform to provide care through remove office visits and virtual therapy, along with installing negative air pressure rooms at its sleep clinics.
“With access to in-lab studies disrupted, we turned to the Noxturnal T3 home sleep testing device,” says Riney. “Patients are given results during their telemedicine visit. If CPAP therapy is needed, we ship the device, and the patient meets with a respiratory therapist on a video call.”
While telemedicine increases access, sleep labs are important for pediatric testing, therapy titrations, and other disorders like narcolepsy or restless leg syndrome. Negative air pressure rooms have been installed to exchange air 18 times an hour. This technology offers greater protection to create a safe environment. These changes have benefited patients and will continue to help ensure anyone who needs help receives it.