Tauranga residents requiring some invasive heart procedures no longer need to travel over the Kaimai Ranges for treatment.
Stenting, also known as angioplasty or Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI), is now being performed at Tauranga Hospital, with local patients reaping the benefits.
The procedure was introduced on April 26 and this week the cardiology team booked its 80th patient.
Stenting relieves patients of angina symptoms due to narrowing of the coronary arteries supplying the heart and is also used in treating heart attacks.
The operation involves expanding a blocked artery by inserting a long catheter, usually at the wrist, and "ballooning" the blocked area enough to insert a stent, which works as scaffolding inside the artery. Previously, patients were referred to Waikato Hospital either as an outpatient or as part of an emergency admission. Urgent cases were transferred to Waikato by ambulance for treatment after days of waiting.
Now patients can be treated within 24 hours of admission and leave Tauranga Hospital the following day.
The feedback since has been extremely positive, cardiology specialty nurse Jason Money said.
"What we've found is we have probably under-appreciated what a big deal it is to go to another hospital."
Cardiology director Dr Jonathan Tisch said patients had opened up about their feelings toward travelling out of town. "The procedure is already anxiety provoking enough, without being in a place you don't know. A lot of people are familiar with this place but Waikato is much bigger."
The localising of the operation has been done under guidance from Waikato Hospital specialists.
Dr Tisch said the introduction of stenting to Tauranga was very much a team effort and complex or difficult cases were still treated at Waikato. It took about a year to bring the idea to fruition and interventional cardiologist Barry Kneale said it was worth it.
"Particularly for the patients, as their access to this state of the art treatment is much improved. The waiting time is shorter and patients don't have to travel at all."