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Hospital Recognized for Superior Kidney Care

Sept. 23, 2006 — Kidney disease can make life very difficult, but the staff of a local hospital has gained recognition for its efforts to improve treatment for patients undergoing dialysis.
Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital (JFLH) recently teamed with the American Nephrology Nurses Association to recognize the nursing staff's tireless service to patients requiring regular dialysis. A cardiologist has also pitched in to ensure that kidney patients feel comfortable and well cared for during a critical time in their lives.
Dr. Kendall Griffith, cardiologist and JFLH medical director, recently performed three thrombectomy and angioplasty procedures to clear access lines in patients experiencing complications from dialysis. No one previously had performed such operations in the territory. Griffith works closely with Dr. Ramish Lakram, the territory's only board-certified nephrologist.
"It's personal," Griffith said of his work with end-stage renal failure patients. He and Lakram "really want to improve the quality of life for these patients.
We want this created in such a way that people from all over the world" will come to St. Croix for this procedure.
Medical experts describe a dialysis machine as an artificial kidney. The machine removes, cleans, and replaces blood in the patient's system. The artery-vein (AV) access line plays an essential role. Griffith calls it a lifeline for patients suffering end-stage renal failure.
The AV can become very troublesome for some patients. According to Griffith, lines can get clogged with blood clots or shrink because of built-up scar tissue. In the past, patients experiencing such complications had to endure a trip to St. Thomas or San Juan or face removal of their access lines. Once removed, doctors place a catheter in the chest or neck of the patient, bringing an increased risk of infection.
Griffith decided to seek training to help JFLH patients with access-line complications without increasing their risks of infection. He traveled to Bamberg, S.C., to train with nationally renowned nephrologist Dr. John Ross. Under his tutelage, Griffith perfected the procedures known as thrombectomy and angioplasty. While other doctors on St. Croix also treat end-stage renal failure, Griffith is the only doctor on the island who can perform those procedures.
Thrombectomy is removal of a clot. Thrombos means clot, while ectomy means removing the clot. Angioplasty involves placing a balloon-like object into the access line and inflating it from within. Angio means vessel, while plasty indicates the balloon. The successful performance of these procedures can result in an immediate resumption of much-needed dialysis for kidney patients.
Griffith has performed three of these procedures, saying of his patients, "They are all excellent."
"Two were [back on dialysis] immediately, and another returned for regularly scheduled treatment," he said.
Some dialysis patients can have three to four treatments a week lasting three to four hours or, in extreme cases, as long as five hours. Access-line complications can cause other complications which their bodies cannot properly address.
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