In May 1968, just months after the world's first heart transplant in South Africa, the Medical College of Virginia (now VCU Medical Center) became only the second U.S. hospital with a heart-transplant program. Dr. Richard Lower, a surgeon at MCV, became one of just a handful of doctors nationwide to have performed the procedure.
Today, there's no shortage of medical distinctions among Central Virginia's major hospitals, which are continually vying to bring other medical "firsts" to the region. Bon Secours, for example, is the only health system in Virginia to offer a 30-minute guarantee of being seen in its emergency department.
Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital (5801 Bremo Road, 285-2011, bonsecours.com) was the first hospital in Virginia and one of the first U.S. centers to offer a new incisionless procedure to reverse complications that can occur after gastric-bypass surgery. The procedure, coined ROSE (restorative obesity surgery, endolumenal), reduces the size of a patient's stomach pouch and the opening to the small intestine to its original post-gastric-bypass proportions.
"Gastric-bypass patients work very hard to manage their weight and adjust their lifestyle after surgery," says Dr. Gregory L. Schroder of Richmond Surgical Bariatrics Group at St. Mary's. "Sometimes, through no fault of their own or their surgeon, the benefits of the bypass procedure start to fail, and they begin to regain weight and the problems associated with it."
St. Mary's also leads the way in Virginia with single-incision laparoscopy surgery (SILS) for gastric-band weight-loss procedures and other gastrointestinal issues like gallbladder removal and appendicitis. In addition, St. Mary's was the first hospital in the United States to perform a new adjustable gastric-band procedure using the REALIZE Adjustable Gastric Band-C. Within Richmond the hospital has also pioneered the use of a cooling-blanket therapy to treat infants born with brain trauma; and St. Mary's is the local standard-bearer for an advanced technique for coronary bypass surgery called TECAB — totally endoscopic coronary artery bypass surgery. TECAB surgery improves blood flow to the heart and alleviates chest pain. The significance is that it is performed through four to five fingertip-size slits with the help of the da Vinci robot, rather than the traditional open-chest surgery that impacts the breastbone. The benefits, hospital officials say, include faster recovery time and less risk of complications.
To date, Johnston-Willis Hospital of CJW Medical Center (1401 Johnston-Willis Drive, 330-2000, cjwmedical.com) is the only hospital in the region with both the Gamma Knife and Trilogy technologies. Using radiation beams, the Gamma Knife allows physicians to treat brain tumors and other abnormalities without damaging the other healthy tissue. Last fall, the hospital's team treated its 1,000th Gamma Knife patient, says Mary Morrissette, neuroscience administrator. "This exciting milestone demonstrates our experience and commitment to advanced neuroscience technology and innovation."
The pediatric-emergency department at CJW Medical Center's Chippenham Hospital (7101 Jahnke Road, 320-3911, cjwmedical.com) is the only emergency room in the Richmond area with 24-hour coverage by a board-certified pediatrician.
Henrico Doctors' Hospital (1602 Skipwith Road, 289-4500, henricodoctors.com) stands alone in Central Virginia as the premier partner with the March of Dimes to offer the NICU Family Support Program, which provides information and comfort to families of premature babies and other critically ill newborns under NICU care. This support continues during a family's transition home and even in the event of a newborn death. "The partnership is a natural fit," says Judy Matthews, Henrico Doctors' administrator of women's and children's services. "Our physicians and nurses do incredible work every day to care for our smallest patients and their families."
John Randolph Medical Center (411 W. Randolph Road, Hopewell, 541-1600, johnrandolphmed.com) is the only hospital in Central Virginia that offers a nonsurgical treatment to help alleviate angina chest pain — known as EECP, enhanced external counterpulsation. "EECP promises to be one of the most important changes in the fight against heart disease," says Tom Delledonne, director of cardiovascular services at John Randolph.
In the city's Fan District, Retreat Hospital (2621 Grove Ave., 254-1700, retreat
hospital.com), a campus in the Henrico Doctors' system, operates Virginia's lone complex-care program, which combines specialized nursing with individualized rehabilitative services to prepare severely ill or injured patients and their families for a return home or to the next level of care. Retreat also holds the distinction of offering Richmond's only state-of-the-art Wound Healing Center. Advanced therapies include hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) treatment for the management of chronic wounds, radiation-injured tissues, and complex soft-tissue and bone infections.
The VCU Medical Center (1250 E. Marshall St., 828-9000, vcuhealth.org) has the state's only hospital built specifically for and devoted solely to critical care. The 15-level, 367,000-square-foot Critical Care Hospital houses new intensive-care units. Each area is prepared for the highest level of care, with advanced monitoring devices, mechanical ventilators and all the necessary equipment for organ support.
The medical center's critical-care hospital contains several features that are unique to the region and Virginia, including the Evans-Haynes Burn Center, the region's only resource for the care of acute burns and reconstructive care, and the only NICU in the region that offers extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) — a process that provides both cardiac and respiratory support to newborns with heart and lung issues.
Dr. Sheldon Retchin, VCU Health System CEO and vice president for health sciences, describes the facility as "the most remarkable facility I've seen in my 30 years of medicine. It has the most advanced technology built right in the walls, ceilings and floors. It is optimized for patient space, for families and for patient comfort and safety. If ever a hospital was to be labeled a ‘smart' hospital, this is it."
The list of distinctions for VCU Medical Center is a long one — it's also the region's only Level 1 trauma center, and the VCU Massey Cancer Center is the region's only National Cancer Institute-designated institution.
Southside Regional Medical Center (200 Medical Park Boulevard, Petersburg, 765-5000, srmconline.com) boasts the newest hospital in Virginia, having just opened its 300-bed replacement facility in July 2008. The new state-of-the-art center represents a $145 million investment in the region. SRMC offers the only trauma center in the Tri-Cities and southern Virginia, as well as the only birthing center and NICU in those areas.
With U.S. military personnel engaged in deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center (1201 Broad Rock Blvd., 675-5000, va.gov) has taken on a critical role in rehabilitating the nation's wounded warriors. In 2005, the federal government designated the traumatic brain-injury program at McGuire, located in Richmond's South Side, one of four "polytrauma" centers in the United States.
As a polytrauma center, McGuire is responsible for rehabilitating active-duty soldiers with multiple catastrophic injuries; chiefly, the polytrauma category refers to soldiers with brain trauma combined with other major injuries such as a spinal-cord injury, loss of vision or hearing, amputation, emotional and cognitive impairments, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
What this means is that it takes a multidisciplinary team of health professionals to return the wounded soldiers back to a level of normal daily functioning, if possible. A $4.2 million addition to the center is expected to be completed in the fall.