New trauma center opens at SF General

February 19, 2009 7:17:35 PM PST
Doctors at the Bay Area's busiest trauma center unveiled a major upgrade on Thursday. They cut the ribbon on San Francisco General Hospital's new Orthopedic Trauma Institute. Its mission is to turn the public hospital's massive volume of trauma cases into a world class teaching opportunity.

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Watching Chara Schreyer bend down on one leg is remarkable, considering just two years ago, she plummeted through the second floor of a construction site, smashing her pelvis.

"I stepped onto what I thought was an attached floor and it wasn't attached," says Chara Schreyer, a trauma patient.

Paramedics rushed her to the Bay Area's oldest and busiest trauma center at San Francisco General. However, what's old on the outside isn't necessarily old on the inside.

"We see multiple shadows and the whole cup is basically blown apart," says Dr. Amir Matityahu, M.D.

Dr. Matityahu, patched Chara's pelvis back together, using computer-guided surgical technology, reconstructing the bones with a combination of screws and other hardware guided into place by a GPS-like system.

"This one shows us we're above the hip joint, where we want to be," says Dr. Matityahu.

It's the kind of high-end computerized equipment typically found in teaching hospitals -- which is exactly what this new section of SF General has become. After years of struggling to attract surgeons, director Dr. Ted Miclau, M.D, and others helped raise private money, to create the orthopedic trauma institute.

"What we've built here is a multipronged approach to taking care of the orthopedic trauma patient. Specifically highest quality of clinical care, cutting-edge research, top-notch education clinical care," says Dr. Miclau.

The institute houses a state of the art training facility, which in turn is helping to recruit surgical students from around the world. The draw is a chance to learn with high end equipment in one of the most intense trauma environments anywhere.

"Generally speaking, on a busy day you'll see three, four, five, six traumas come in at one time or in sequence. We've had everything from the tiger mauling at the zoo, to patients who come in after a gang fight," says Metityahu, M.D.

The institute also added research labs, where surgeons will probe the biology of traumatic injuries, from bone to blood vessel, and conduct clinical trials. More than 70 physicians and specialist from UCSF will eventually be based here. But while the facilities may be elite, the patients who benefit will run the gamut, since the institute is still part of massive public hospital that treats thousands of uninsured and Medi-Cal patients every year.

"Doesn't make any difference what your socioeconomic background is, you're going get the most advanced care here in San Francisco at San Francisco General Hospital," said Metityahu, M.D.

Care, that patients like Chara, who lives in Tiburon and does have insurance, deeply appreciates.

"This place saved my life and so did Dr. Metityahu who did save my life," says Chara.

Now, much of equipment you saw in the surgical training center runs into the millions of dollars, but several of the manufacturers gave the institute steep discounts to put their devices in the hands of the next generation of trauma surgeons.

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