GE Healthcare partners with SUNheart echocardiography
A long-term vision to develop the cardiology imaging facilities and expertise at Tygerberg Hospital to world-class standards has now come to full fruition with the donation of a state of the art 4D echocardiography machine by GE Healthcare to the unit.
Professor Anton Doubell, head of the Division of Cardiology at Tygerberg hospital and Stellenbosch University, spearheaded this development initiative 5 years ago with the appointment of Dr. Philip Herbst as consultant cardiologist in 2008. Dr. Herbst's specific expertise in echocardiography was acquired during 5 years of cardiology training in London, England. After starting at Tygerberg Hospital he developed and implemented an innovative echocardiography training program called SUNecho. The SUNecho program includes a comprehensive weekly echocardiography tutorial series that is based on a unique critical thinking approach developed locally in the unit. In addition the program provides for a hands-on and tutored learning experience complemented by a weekly troubleshooting series to keep everyone on their toes. The program's finishing school is an intensive 4-day echocardiography course that has become the premier echocardiography teaching course in South Africa since its inception in 2009. Tygerberg cardiology currently provides training in echocardiography to doctors from a wide variety of specialist fields. They have recently initiated the first subspecialist echocardiography fellowship in South Africa that will commence in August 2014 and aims to deliver highly specialized echocardiographers to the South African market.
The SUNecho program has achieved remarkable success in a short 5-year span. There is now a core of highly trained specialists in cardiac imaging at Tygerberg Hospital including the recently appointed Dr. Alfonso Pecoraro. Dr. Pecoraro specializes in perioperative and transoesophageal echocardiography which complements the unit's class leading expertise in the evaluation and percutaneous treatment of valvular heart disease.
Tygerberg Hospital Cardiology is now the premier echocardiography unit in the country with a full range of high-end echocardiography services. The unit offers, as routine, stress - and transoesophageal echocardiography services that complement a large and busy transthoracic service of more than 6000 studies annually. The assessment of cardiac mechanics through the use of advanced echocardiography techniques such as deformation imaging has now been incorporated into routine practice at this unit.
Cardiology at Tygerberg hospital boasts the largest echocardiography review network in South Africa (GE ECHOPAC). This review, post processing and reporting tool is central to both service delivery and training and is an absolute necessity to optimize workflow in a busy service. Another first was the recent acquisition of the first and only Heartworks echocardiography training simulator in South Africa. The simulator is used for the study of cardiac anatomy as well as for hands – on training in the SUNecho training program.
The Echocardiography service at Tygerberg Hospital has expanded to the cardiology outpatient department where a one-stop service is delivered to cardiology outpatients with the aim of improving both service efficiency and registrar training. In an attempt to provide equal access to specialized services for all the cardiology unit has initiated a cardiology outreach service that includes an echocardiography arm at secondary hospitals. The potential to remotely manage cases with colleagues at other hospitals through the ECHOPAC network is another exciting development which holds great potential.
The pinnacle in terms of recent developments in echocardiography at the unit is undoubtedly the generous donation of a state of the art 4D echocardiography machine by GE healthcare to the SUNheart heart foundation, a philanthropic foundation residing in the unit. The significance of this donation cannot be overstated as it will allow a significant expansion of our 3D services, expertise and training capabilities in this modality. Importantly it will also allow for state of the art research to be done on disease processes that are relevant to the South African context utilizing cutting edge technology and equipment.