Research - Differentiates Carolinas HealthCare

Throughout 2010 Carolinas HealthCare System demonstrated its extraordinary commitment to public service through an impressive series of medical advancements and research initiatives.

In February, for example, CHS put the finishing touches on a comprehensive network that provides rapid, advanced treatment to patients suffering an acute stroke. The initiative, called Carolinas Stroke Network, raises the current standards for diagnosis and treatment among participating hospitals. Hospitals have 24/7 access to stroke experts who help determine the best treatment plan for each patient and coordinate rapid transfer to alternate hospitals, as needed, to provide the most appropriate level of care.

Doctors at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute also became certified during 2010 to implant ventricular assist devices or “VADs.” These are devices that restore heart function for patients who cannot receive transplants and can extend the lives of patients with end-stage heart failure up to eight or 10 years. Before 2010, VADs were implanted in patients as a “bridge” to sustain heart function until a patient could receive a transplant. Patients can now use VADs as a “destination therapy tool” that can actually take the place of a heart transplant.

CMC is the only facility in the Charlotte region that has obtained the VAD Destination Therapy Gold Seal of Approval by The Joint Commission. It is also one of only three facilities in North Carolina with this certification.

Researchers in CMC's Department of Emergency Medicine, along with colleagues at two other hospitals, published a nationally significant study during 2010 on sepsis, popularly known as blood poisoning.

Their article, published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, identified a less invasive, safer and more cost-effective test to help treat severe sepsis. Previous treatments required an expensive and invasive catheter to be inserted in a neck or chest vein to monitor blood oxygen readings which are crucial to patient treatment and survival. CMC physicians found that a simple blood test can achieve the same result without the special skill and equipment needed for catheter insertion.

Another major advancement occurred when Levine Children's Hospital received $5.7 million from eight families and philanthropic organizations in the Charlotte region to create the “Carolinas Kids Cancer Research Coalition.” The Coalition will fund Phase I and Phase II clinical trials at the newly named Hemby Hematology and Oncology Center. The expansion of clinical research capabilities in Charlotte will give pediatric cancer patients in the surrounding region access to the latest treatments without having to travel to a distant city.

In the area of specialized surgery, CMC's Charlotte Fetal Care Center (CFCC) began offering highly specialized fetoscopic laser ablation procedures to patients with Twin Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). TTTS is a disease of the placenta in which one of two twins gets inadequate nourishment in utero. It carries a high rate of fatality if the condition is not corrected before birth.

Dr. Courtney D. Stephenson serves as Director of the CFCC. Dr. Stephenson completed extensive training under a world-renowned fetal care and pediatric surgeon, Dr. Timothy Cromblehome, who heads the Fetal Care Center of Cincinnati. Because of Dr. Stephenson's expertise in the treatment of TTTS and CMC’s acquisition of specialized equipment, procedures that were once unavailable in this part of the country are now readily accessible.

Looking back on these and other developments Dennis Phillips, Executive Vice President of the CHS Metro Group, said 2010 was “an exciting and unusually productive year.”

He added, “Everyone at CHS should feel a sense of pride in the work being done throughout our organization. Our physicians, researchers and staff have been extremely successful in coming up with innovations that advance the frontiers of knowledge and treatment, in ways that enhance both quality and convenience for those we serve.”