Arkansas Business' 25 Health Care Advances (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

The staff and crew of Baptist MedFlight.

Since 1984, the lives of Arkansans have been improved by the introduction of new medical technology, procedures or services. Here are some of the key health care advances, listed in chronological order by year of introduction, that have shaped Arkansas' medical industry in the last 25 years.

1984
1. MedFlight
In 1984, Baptist Medical Center agreed to a six-month trial program of air medical transportation. Since then, MedFlight has made more than 14,000 patient flights. The service covers the state, even areas without helicopter pads.

In 1985, Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock launched Angel One Transport, which can reach any part of Arkansas within an hour. It makes about 1,200 helicopter transports a year.

1986
2. Arkansas Lions Eye Bank & Laboratory
In 1983, Dr. John Shock, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, got the ball rolling on an eye bank laboratory that would meet the standards of the Eye Bank Association of America.

The Arkansas Lions Eye Bank & Laboratory opened at UAMS in 1986 to provide corneas for transplant candidates in the state. With support from Lions Clubs of Arkansas, the Arkansas eye bank has been recognized as one of the best in the country.

1989
3. Stem-cell Transplant
UAMS conducted the first stem-cell transplant in Arkansas to treat myeloma. Stem cells are typically gathered from a patient at the beginning of treatment and then transfused back to help recovery of the bone marrow following chemotherapy. The procedure has led to higher survival and remission rates for those patients with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma. UAMS has since performed more than 7,000 stem-cell transplants.

4. Heart Transplant
Mary Wilson of Jacksonville received the first heart transplant in Arkansas at Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock. Dr. John Ransom performed the surgery and led the hospital's heart transplant program. In 2005, Baptist Health was certified to perform transplants on Medicare patients. The hospital performs an average of one transplant a month.

5. LDR Childbirth
White County Memorial Hospital at Searcy, now known as White County Medical Center, became the first hospital in Arkansas to offer the "labor, delivery and recovery" concept in one setting. The model is now common in hospitals.

1991
6. Kidney-Pancreas Transplant
UAMS was the first hospital in Arkansas to provide kidney-pancreas transplants. It still is the only medical center in the state to perform the procedure on patients who have kidney failure from complications of type 1 diabetes.

1997
7. Arkansas Heart Hospital
Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock was the second heart hospital in the nation. It has treated patients from all 75 Arkansas counties and conducted more than 7,500 open-heart surgeries.

For better or worse, AHH also ushered in the era of physician-owned specialty hospitals in Arkansas. HealthPark Hospital in Hot Springs opened in 2002, followed by the Surgical Hospital of Jonesboro in 2003 and Arkansas Surgical Hospital in North Little Rock in 2005.

Full-service hospitals complain that the physician-owned specialty hospitals treat the high-paying, well-insured surgical patients without having to take uninsured patients who then end up in the community hospitals' emergency rooms. Last month, however, a Pulaski County judge ruled that hospitals couldn't withdraw privileges from doctors who invest in competing specialty hospitals.

8. UAMS BioVentures
UAMS BioVentures was formed by UAMS as the state's first biomedical business incubator, helping researchers commercialize their lab work. By 2009, the incubator has generated more than 175 patents and 52 license agreements with biotechnology, medical device and pharmaceutical companies.

Some notable incubator companies include Safe Foods Corp. of North Little Rock, which markets an antimicrobial process for reducing food-borne pathogens, and Contour Med of Little Rock, which manufactures custom breast prostheses.

1999
9. Gamma Knife
UAMS opened the Gamma Knife Radiosurgery Center, which offers a noninvasive alternative to brain surgery for conditions such as tumors and trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain condition. The Gamma Knife aims 192 tiny cobalt-60 beams of radiation at the site of the tumor. Patients typically don't need general anesthesia and can leave the hospital in a few hours.

10. Vertebroplasty
The first vertebroplasty procedure in Arkansas was performed at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center in Little Rock. The outpatient treatment is used to relieve painful compression fractures of the spine, which are sometimes caused by osteoporosis. The surgery calls for placing a needle into a broken bone and injecting an orthopedic cement to fill in fractures, eliminating or reducing pain in 90 percent of patients.

Dr. Steve Dunnagan of Radiology Associates PA of Little Rock was a pioneer of the procedure in Arkansas.

2001
11. Myeloma Institute for Research & Therapy
UAMS established the world's first Myeloma Institute for Research & Therapy, which has become an international leader in the treatment and study of multiple myeloma and related diseases. It also is one of the largest referral centers in the world. In 2008, led by Dr. Bart Barlogie, the institute was the first in the nation to use gene therapy to treat the rare cancer. Research led by Barlogie at the institute has improved the average survival rate of myeloma patients from three years after diagnosis to more than seven years.

2003
12. Da Vinci Surgical System
Arkansas Children's Hospital bought the state's first Da Vinci Surgical System, which allows surgeons to use computers to guide tiny instruments with precision. At the time, only 115 hospitals nationwide had one. It was first used for chest and abdominal surgeries at ACH, but within five years other hospitals around Arkansas would have Da Vinci systems for urologists, gynecologists, general surgeons and other surgical specialties. In 2005, Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock performed the state's first minimally invasive treatment for patients with prostate cancer using the da Vinci prostatectomy.

13. Medical Cyclotron
St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center became the first facility in Arkansas to offer a new test that tracks the blood flow of a patient's heart. The test became available because St. Vincent also was the first in Arkansas to produce radioisotopes on site using the state's first medical cyclotron, which was acquired in 2003. The heart test uses radioisotopes that are used in Positron Emission Tomography technology for imaging in diagnosing heart problems, cancer and other illnesses.

14. St. Vincent Memory Center
St. Vincent Health System opened the St. Vincent Memory Center, the first center in Arkansas developed specifically to diagnose and treat memory loss.

2004
15. DeBakey Ventricular Assist Device
Led by Dr. Jonathan Drummond-Webb, the heart team at Arkansas Children's Hospital performed the world's first successful heart transplant on a child – a 14-year-old Cabot boy – who first had a miniaturized heart pump known as the DeBakey VAD Child, a ventricular assist device. The DeBakey improves blood flow for children ages 5 to 16 who are waiting for a heart transplant, allowing some of them to go home while waiting for a new heart. Fifty-six days after the DeBakey surgery, Drummond-Webb took the patient off the DeBakey pump to receive a new heart.

2005
16. Liver Transplant
The first liver transplant in Arkansas was performed at UAMS and was led by Dr. Youmin Wu. Since then the state's only liver transplant program has performed nearly 100 transplants with a one-year survival rate of 98.3 percent. The national average is 87.9 percent.

17. Arcadis Orbic 3D
St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center became the first in Arkansas and one of only 32 medical centers in the country to provide 3D imaging in surgery with the Arcadis Orbic 3D system. The 3D imaging system can provide 100 images in 60 seconds. It also can continue to capture images as needed to identify changes that occur during surgery. The Arcadis Orbic 3D also can partner with another navigation system, eliminating the need for manual alignment for orthopedic surgery.

18. Berlin Heart
Arkansas Children's Hospital received the OK from the Food & Drug Administration to use the Berlin Heart to support a child's failing heart. The Berlin Heart is a blood pump that wasn't approved for use in the United States except in cases of an emergency. It treats heart failure until a heart transplant can be performed. It was the first time the device was used in Arkansas and at the time, only 12 other pediatric patients had the device. In October 2008, the Berlin Heart received FDA approval for clinical trials.

2007
19. Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing
Dr. Richard Evans, director of the UAMS Center for Hip & Knee Surgery, became the first surgeon in Arkansas and among the first in the country to perform a "bicompartmental knee resurfacing," which used metal implants to create new joint surfaces. Before this procedure, there was little surgeons could do to relieve arthritis pain other than a total knee replacement.

In 2007, Evans also performed the first hip resurfacing procedure in Arkansas. Rather than replacing the entire hip joint, hip resurfacing shaves a few millimeters of bone and places a metal cap and socket over the two joint surfaces. The surgery is an alternative to a total hip replacement for younger, more active patients.

20. Pentacam
UAMS was the first hospital in Arkansas to acquire the newest version of the Pentacam, which is a diagnostic tool used to measure the refractive characteristics of the eye. The Pentacam is used to determine which patients are good candidates for refractive surgery and to find patients who have had refractive surgery and may now need cataract surgery. At the time, only 25 other medical facilities had one.

21. Cooling Cap
Neonatologists at Arkansas Children's Hospital were the first in the world to treat an infant with a newly approved "cooling cap," which helps reduce brain injury in full-term infants who have been oxygen-deprived before or during birth. The cap cools the brain and can save 80 to 90 percent of the brain cells that otherwise would have died.

2008
22. UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute
UAMS opened the Psychiatric Research Institute, one of only nine institutions in the country to combine inpatient and outpatient treatment with education and research. It is estimated that the PRI will have 60,000 patients annually. The six-story, 110,000-SF building has 40 inpatient beds and research, clinical, educational and administrative space.

23. EnSite System
Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock became the first hospital in Arkansas to use a new technology for arrhythmia procedures. The EnSite System is used to visualize patients' hearts and to help determine the cause of arrhythmias. The system is designed to provide highly detailed, 3D cardiac images at the time of an electrophysiology procedure.

24. On-call Neurologists
UAMS was the first in the nation to partner with rural independent hospitals to provide a neurologist on call 24 hours a day through a two-way interactive video to help treat stroke patients. Two neurologists at UAMS and one at Sparks Regional Medical Center in Fort Smith remain on call with the video equipment at their office and home.

Arkansas ranked third-highest among all states in stroke deaths with 61 per 100,000 residents. As of February, six rural hospitals in Arkansas were in the program. More hospitals were expected to join the network in 2009.

25. Robotic Radical Trachelectomy
UAMS' Dr. Alexander "Sandy" Burnett became the first surgeon in Arkansas, and among the first in the world, to use a robotic procedure to remove a 25-year-old woman's cancerous cervix through the abdomen while preserving her ability to have children. Burnett used the da Vinci surgical robot in the radical trachelectomy. Traditionally, women with cervical cancer had been treated with hysterectomies that removed all their reproductive organs.

 

(Click here to see all the stories in our anniversary edition. Or click here to flip through each page of the edition in this special free electronic version.) 

 

 

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