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Cath Lab Expansions Reconsidered

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media, February 2, 2011

The forecast for heart disease in the U.S. is on par with the dire predictions from meteorologists tracking a monster winter system across the Midwest and into New England this week. A destructive force is gaining strength, we are told, and it's headed this way.

Research published in the Jan. 24 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, predicts that the cost of treating heart disease in the United States will triple over the next two decades. A spike in future disease rates is foreseen by researchers as a result of population changes in age and race.

For most of us in the winter storm's path, preparation is straightforward. We lay in ample supplies of milk, bread, and eggs, and hunker down for the duration (and French toast).   

For hospitals aiming to profit from rising rates of heart disease, preparation may also seem straightforward. Eyeing a growing wave of patients with occluded arteries, heart attacks, and congestive heart failure, many hospitals seek to extend their cardiac service lines. By building cardiac catheterization labs, the thinking goes, they can treat patients with ST-segment myocardial infarction (STEMI) by offering primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). Compared with fibrinolytic therapy (FT), PCI is better at reducing mortality when administered in a timely fashion.

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