Healthcare innovation close to home: Region residents have close access to the latest medical treatments and advancements

2013-09-08T07:00:00Z Healthcare innovation close to home: Region residents have close access to the latest medical treatments and advancementsVanessa Renderman (219) 933-3244

From high-tech gadgets in sterile surgical suites to green smoothies at the health food store down the street, new ways to get healthy and stay healthy are surfacing every day. And Region residents don't have to travel far to reap the benefits.

In May, Dr. Samer Abbas began using an advance in optical coherence tomography at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago to treat patients with Peripheral Artery Disease, which can cause a heart attack or amputation, among other serious conditions.

He uses a device called the Ocelot to navigate inside blocked leg arteries.

“With Ocelot’s first-ever advanced imaging technology, I can see, in real-time, the intricacies of what I'm doing inside blocked arteries of my patients,” Abbas said.

Doctors are using 3-D technology to detect and treat breast cancer, as well.

Dr. Anastasia Siatras, radiologist and fellowship breast imager at Methodist Hospital, uses a procedure called tomosynthesis, which provides 3-D images taken by a machine that moves around the breast in an arc and takes multiple X-rays that a computer forms into a 3-D image.

“It uses computer software and it allows us to scan through the breast in one millimeter segments,” she said. “We’re able to see significantly better and essentially pick apart breast tissue and reveal hidden abnormalities.”

Dr. Hythan Rafai, a neurologist and founder of Neurological & Spinal Surgery, is one of the only area neurologists to do a procedure called percutaneous balloon compression of the trigeminal nerve that aids patients with tri-facial pain.

“The pain is like someone sending electric current through the face,” Rafai said. “After the procedure, there’s instant relief.”

During the procedure, a balloon is implanted into the cheek and inflated to numb the nerve. Recent improvements in the balloons have improved the outcome of the procedure, said Rafai, who practices in the Franciscan Alliance, Community Healthcare and Methodist Hospital systems.

Technology is helping patients take control of their health, too.

FitBit, UP by Jawbone, BodyMedia and other monitors collect physiological data to track and measure body activity. The devices range in price from $50 to $200.

“If I ask a client how much and what they are eating, they often don’t have the amounts right,” said Devine Rickert, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Dietetic Association. “If they use FitBit (or another device) we both know what’s really going on.”

Online medical charts help track health issues.

Patient portals, like MyChart, are available at local hospital systems and allow patients to log on from any computer, check test results, order prescription refills and communicate directly with their doctors.

Knowing their health status can help them make better decisions, even when it comes to food choices. More Americans are eating a high protein diet that includes red meat. They're also seeing higher cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, but red meat may be unfairly taking the blame.

Michael S. LaPointe, associate professor of biology at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, said, “Perhaps the biggest risk of eating red meat may not in eating it per se, especially lean red meat, but from the lack of a balanced diet.”

He noted that the increase in red meat consumption often means eating less fruits, vegetables and grains.

Some people get their daily requirement of fruits and vegetables in liquid form.

“We have a whole section (of) green drinks,” said Tim Petrites, member of the marketing and education team at Baums Natural Foods with locations in Munster, Merrillville and St. John. “Including Greenergy, which is being endorsed by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals and enzymes which detoxify the body and helps the system become more alkaline. And cancer doesn’t like alkaline.”

Consuming the wrong foods can be toxic.

“A person who is allergic to wheat, who gets hives, vomits, collapses is far different than the individual who has celiac disease,” said Dr. Cynthia Lerner, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, with private practices in Munster, Tinley Park, Illinois and at the Ann and Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago New Lenox Outreach Clinic.

“People might say, 'I’m allergic to milk,' but really what they have is a lactose intolerance.”

Technology and diet have strong roles in optimal health, but a simple emotion has its place, too. Recent research shows health and happiness are linked.

“‘Happy’ people cope better with stress and trauma, are more resilient, have stronger immune systems and live longer,” said Barbara Santay, therapist for Franciscan Alliance’s Employee Assistance Program.

According to Santay, two-thirds of female breast cancer survivors who attend support groups report that their lives were altered for the better after developing the disease. Women who have strong social connections live an average of 18 months longer than those who have little to no connections. Bereavement has been associated with stress hormones, and friendly social contact has been proven to decrease those hormones.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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