PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Servicemen and servicewomen face a new threat after their time on the battlefield ends. A recent report indicates they are more likely to have heart disease at a younger age than non-veterans.

Research suggests everything from modern warfare to changing diet and lifestyle could be to blame. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, some of those military vets are getting cardiac diagnostic and interventional treatment thanks to the latest technology at a local veterans’ medical facility.

What sounds like a beeping noise from a video game is actually coming from a precision vascular robotics machine. It’s the latest addition to the fourth floor cardiac cath lab at Wilkes-Barre V.A. Medical Center. Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center Chief of Medicine Nabeela Mian, MD said, “We started the cath lab project because we realized it’s a big need for our veterans.”

Since opening in 2012, some 1,500 diagnostic procedures like cardiac catheterizations and angiograms have been performed without complications on vets inside the lab. And last year, the VA began opening blocked arteries through percutaneous coronary intervention or PCI. In laymen’s terms, it’s stent placement.

“We have done about 28 of them so far and again perfect record, no complications,” Dr. Mian said.

“It can be done within fractions of millimeters, all right, for placement. For absolute precise placement,” said Rich Weaver, RCIS.

As Cardiac Cath Lab Lead Technologist, Mr. Weaver assists by loading into the arm of the device a wire, balloon, and small mesh-like tube or stent. While the veteran patient will be on the table where Mr. Weaver is working, a doctor will be on the other side of the lab at the controls remotely guiding the device through a point in the wrist and to where the coronary blockage exists. The result? Increased blood flow and reduced risk of heart attack or muscle damage from that blockage.

“It is an absolute game-changer. It is going to revolutionize what we do here in the cath lab,” said Mr. Weaver.

The VA recently hired a vascular surgeon. Soon, the facility will be able to treat peripheral vascular disease by eliminating blockages in the legs of veterans.