OCEANSIDE — In the continuous pursuit of providing the most advanced healthcare to the community, Tri-City Medical Center recently opened the first of three specialty institutes and is adding top physicians to the medical staff.
Among the most recent additions to the medical staff are internationally recognized orthopaedic surgeon John Regan and David Perkowski, a pioneer of off-pump or “beating heart” coronary artery bypass surgery. Both doctors performed their first operations at Tri-City in December.
Tri-City’s Cardiovascular Health Institute opened in December; the Orthopaedic and Spine Institute is scheduled to open in the spring followed by the Cancer Institute. Regan, an innovator in minimally invasive spine surgery, performed his first case at Tri-City with orthopaedic surgeon Neville Alleyne. They operated on one of the victims of the 2008 Metrolink train collision in Los Angeles County. The accident left 34-year-old Luis Cruz with excruciating back and leg pain. The pain was so severe, Cruz was unable to work or enjoy normal daily activities. Regan and Alleyne performed a posterior decompressive laminectomy fusion with inter-body cages, bone graft and instrumentation on the lower region of Cruz’s spine.
According to Alleyne, the addition of Regan is an important step in developing a comprehensive spine network at Tri-City.
“We will be able to treat very complex cases for a myriad of different people from within and outside the area — people like Mr. Cruz who otherwise would have to live with excruciating back and leg pain the rest of their lives. Our skills complement one another and together, we are greater than the sum of our parts,” Alleyne said. Cruz says that as a result of the surgery, he no longer has to take pain medication, the pain in his legs was gone almost immediately and he is looking forward to returning to work.
Perkowski is a cardiothoracic surgeon who was one of the first doctors in Southern California to perform off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery or “beating heart” surgery. In beating-heart surgery, only a small portion of the heart is stilled with a special device while the rest of the heart beats normally, allowing for normal circulation. “It adds a new dimension to cardiac surgery because it’s less invasive than the traditional bypass,” Perkowski said.
The advantages of keeping the heart beating during bypass surgery include fewer infections, reduced risk of stroke following surgery, and often shorter recovery times. Dr. Perkowski says that he chooses the beating heart procedure in 98 percent of his surgeries. He has performed approximately 2,000 surgeries using this technique. The surgeon says he also sees fewer cognitive problems in his beating heart patients compared to traditional bypass surgeries which use a heart lung machine.
Perkowski has a 1.8-percent mortality rate, which is more than two times below the national average. The median age of his beating heart patient is 71 years, which is seven years older than the norm. Statistics show his patients recover extremely well from the surgery. In more than 1,500 beating heart surgeries, just one patient developed sternal infection and none of his patients developed intra-operative stroke. Perkowski says these outcomes tell him older patients seem to tolerate this surgery better and with fewer complications than the traditional bypass.