Bay Area hospital leads surgical revolution


El Camino Hospital has become an epicenter for advances in catheter-based medicine. Some procedures that were performed as open chest surgeries until recently are now routinely done through a catheter, requiring just small incisions.

"We're in the midst of a revolution in converting traditional old, big, bad surgery into minimally invasive surgery," said El Camino Hospital's Dr. James Joye.

And the leader in high-tech surgeries is going to new lengths to share the technology.

To demonstrate the advances, Joye and his team recently performed more than a half a dozen procedures over the course of a day, with every move recorded by multiple cameras. The sound and images were transmitted to Las Vegas, where a group of surgeons attended a packed meeting called VIVA, or Vascular InterVentional Advances.

In one instance, Joye and his team repaired a delicate network of blood vessels to seal off an aneurysm near the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys.

"Normally, that's a pure surgical play. What we've done and part of these breakthroughs is we can take smaller grafts into each of those branch vessels and then put a larger graft through the aorta to completely seal off the aneurysm but still at the same time preserve flow to those vital organs," Joye said.

The hook-up to the VIVA site is interactive. Surgeons at the conference can relay their questions to a panel that's in contact with the doctors at El Camino.

Dr. Bruce Ourieff, a cardiologist at El Camino, has attended the VIVA meetings since they were first launched over a decade ago.

He says the current structure is bringing together doctors from multiple disciplines, including traditional surgeons who haven't necessarily been advocates of some of the advanced catheter-based strategies. "The field is now becoming much easier to work within," Ourieff said.

Joye says the interactive model is designed to provide real-time information that's so detailed that surgeons can evaluate whether a given procedure could potentially work in their practice.

"So no matter what the question is, no matter the fine technical details, the indications for the procedure -- no question is too dumb or too smart. They get real-time answers," he said.

He says the model has now helped VIVA grow into one of the most popular teaching events of its kind in the country.

Doctors at El Camino performed nearly 39 catheter procedures over the four days of the VIVA conference. They were viewed by more than 1,500 surgeons from across the country.

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