Heritage: The Story of St. Mary's Hospital, 1880-1980
By Leo G. Bryne and Sister Alberta Cammack, C.S.J
Chapter III Contemporary St. Mary's
In the last twenty-five years, the largest contributions to medicine have been the technological advances. Twenty-five years ago, renal dialysis was something that was talked about but really was not generally available. Surgeons were beginning to learn the skills that went along with the repairing of septal defects in congenital heart disease. There were no such things as open-heart surgery, pacemakers, coronary by-passes, or heart transplants.
Nuclear Medicine, consisting of radioactive iodine and a handheld counter, was used to diagnose and treat thyroid disorders. Antibiotics had come into general use, and a vaccine for polio was being introduced. New drugs and new compounds were being developed so that, today, chemotherapy and multiple chemotherapies are prolonging lives in patients with cancer of the colon or breast, and 90 percent total cures are expected for certain tumors of the uterus. Patients with acute leukemia, who had a six month survival rate in 1960, now have five- to ten-year cures with 50 to 60 percent of those cure showing no recurrence. Platelet transfusions control bleeding, and granulocytes are used for those who have lost the ability to fight infection, providing them with temporary ability to combat such infection until they can redevelop their own immunity.
Heart transplants are giving years of life to those who would not survive without them, and transplanted kidneys provide normal functions for those whose only hope was continued dialysis.
A neurosurgeon doing microsurgery today is able to run small arterial vessels from the temporal artery to the cerebral cortex, and teams working in specialized centers are able to reconnect blood vessels and nerve fibers in restoring a severed arm or leg.
Ear specialists, who were among the first to use microsurgery, are now able to reconstruct the middle ear with its ear drum and tiny bones that transmit sound.
High-speed surgical power tools are so precise and so maneuverable that operations once considered impossible are performed routinely.
Brain and heart surgery has been aided by profound cooling, which slows metabolism, providing against the damaging effects of circulatory arrest. Extreme cold, or cryosurgery, is also used to destroy diseased tissue and aid in the removal of cataracts and to reattach detached retinas.
Super-powerful laser beams are also being used to repair detached retinas and to remove growths on vocal cords.
Less rigid endoscopic devices are being used in gastrointestinal and chest work, their flexibility enabling them to explore the lungs, the common bile duct and the colon.
Orthopedic surgeons are doing total hip replacements and other procedures not thought of in the past. New implant materials and techniques have made these possible. Pioneer work is being done in the use of electromagnetic fields to speed up healing within bone fractures that have not healed properly despite conventional therapies.
These are but a few of the dramatic changes in the diagnostic, surgical and therapeutic procedures that characterize modern medical care. A brief view of specific items will serve to give us a picture of health care as practiced today at St. Mary's Hospital and Health Center.
Continue with Chapter III: Contemporary St. Mary's Laminar Air-Flow System