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New device to aid St. Vincent’s Chilton cardiologists

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

A new piece of technology at St. Vincent’s Chilton has expanded the methods cardiologists at the hospital have at their disposal when it comes to imaging patients’ hearts.

Money from an endowment fund started by Jim Wadsworth, owner of Wadsworth Oil Company, allowed the hospital to purchase a device used for transesophageal echocardiography, or TEE.

According to the American Heart Association, “TEE uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to make detailed pictures of your heart and the arteries that lead to and from it. Unlike a standard echocardiogram, the echo transducer that produces the sound waves for TEE is attached to a thin tube that passes through your mouth, down your throat and into your esophagus. Because the esophagus is so close to the upper chambers of the heart, very clear images of those heart structures and valves can be obtained.”

“We opened the hospital in October of 2016,” said Jennifer Philpot, major gifts officer with St. Vincent’s Foundation. “Some people wanted to support the hospital, and we did a small campaign. Jim and Al [Headley] wanted to do something for the hospital, and they made the first two gifts to the hospital. Mr. Wadsworth has set up an endowment so that we can continue to support the needs of the hospital, purchase equipment, that sort of thing. TEE is one of the first things purchased with that endowment.”

Wadsworth and Headley visited the hospital April 10 to get a look at the device and to hear about both how it works and how it will allow doctors to help patients.

TEE can give doctors a better look at the heart than ultrasounds taken from outside a patient’s body.

“You have the end of the device, which is actually scanning,” said Shanon Hamilton, director of clinical services at St. Vincent’s Chilton. “The tip of the probe in the esophagus is viewing the back side of the heart. They are looking at structures that they can’t see as well from the front side. It helps diagnose many different issues, specifically in the heart.”

Hamilton said GE has been to the hospital to make sure the new device has been properly calibrated, and training will be completed for anyone who will be using TEE.

“We are especially grateful to donors like Mr. Wadsworth and Mr. Headley,” said St. Vincent’s Chilton administrator Suzannah Campbell. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to do some of the programs we are doing. Having that capital funding [gives us] the opportunity to expand our programs and offer more to the community.

“We want to get to the point where everyone can stay here for all of their healthcare needs and not have to leave the county. That’s always been our goal. Everyone on my leadership team is trying to add new programs, services and specialties so we can grow and serve the community.”