Akron General Health System is expanding its ability to offer minimally invasive procedures with less radiation exposure for patients with vascular and other problems.



The health system is opening a $2 million, high-tech “hybrid” operating room early next month at Akron General Medical Center.



The new OR combines a traditional surgery room with the capabilities of a suite designed for endovascular procedures, or those done through major blood vessels rather than a large incision.



“This is a huge advance for what we want to accomplish,” said Dr. Dennis J. Wright, chief of vascular surgery and executive medical director of the Heart & Vascular Center at Akron General. “It improves efficiency for the patient, safety for the patient and the scope of procedures we can offer the patient.”



In some cases, surgical and endovascular procedures will be performed at the same time, reducing the need for patients to undergo separate trips to the OR, Wright said.



With the new hybrid OR, patients also can have a blocked artery cleaned out during a surgery and a stent placed in another blocked artery lower in the leg through a catheter during the same procedure, said Dr. Robert Netzley, a vascular specialist and thoracic surgeon with Akron General.



A combination of bypass surgery and stenting of arteries if needed for some patients with coronary artery disease also is possible with the new OR.



By combining an endovascular suite with a traditional operating room, doctors can start with a less invasive approach and then quickly switch to an open chest operation if problems arise without having to transfer the patient, Wright said. Several of the procedures already scheduled for the first week are for patients at risk of complications that could require a quick transition to an operation.



“The room is very flexible,” he said. “You’ve got the patient at the right place.”



The addition of the hybrid OR also enables the hospital to begin offering some endovascular procedures that previously weren’t provided at the facility, Wright said.



The hospital plans to start offering catheter-based heart valve repairs and implantation — a change from the traditional open-chest procedures that could reduce pain and recovery time.



The high-tech system allows doctors to view live X-ray, CT scan and ultrasound images during procedures that can be compared with previous test results, all displayed on a 50-plus-inch screen, Wright said. The precise testing equipment and better image quality allow less radiation exposure for patients during procedures.



Hybrid operating rooms are becoming increasingly popular nationwide. According to a report from Millennium Research Group, the “OR integration market” is expected to grow 15 percent through 2015.



Akron General’s cross-town rival, Summa Health System, also has plans to open a hybrid cardiovascular operating room in September at its Akron City Hospital.



Philanthropists Richard M. and Yvonne Hamlin contributed a record-setting $4 million donation to Summa last year to pay for the hybrid operating room suite, which will be named in their honor.



Summa officials estimated about 1,000 patients leave the Akron area each year for cardiac services that can be provided at facilities with a hybrid operating room.



Akron General is paying for the new hybrid operating room through its capital budget, Wright said.



Akron General remodeled two existing operating rooms to build the new hybrid OR, which, at 800 square feet, is larger than the typical 625-square-feet cardiac operating room.



Akron General expects to perform between 300 and 400 procedures in the new hybrid OR within the first year, Wright said.



The hospital has two vascular surgeons on staff, with plans to add a third this summer.



Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or cpowell@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/CherylPowellABJ.