ePhysician Notes: Archive



Dr. Michael Cuba

Ochsner Baton Rouge:

Accepting Most All Health Plans, Publicizing ER Wait Times

For questions about Ochsner Baton Rouge health insurance, call 225-755-4833.
See ER Wait Times at ochsner.org/emergency

From Aetna to United, Ochsner Baton Rouge accepts most every health insurance plan. Spreading the word about the variety of insurance plans accepted is important because there are misconceptions. 

“In a recent survey of Baton Rouge residents, 50 percent did not know or were unclear about whether Ochsner was covered under their health plan,” says Mitch Wasden, CEO, Ochsner Baton Rouge Region. “We have done a huge awareness campaign to let all residents know Ochsner takes all major health plans including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, United, Aetna and many others.”

Ochsner Baton Rouge is also promoting its ER Wait Time feature, updated frequently on the website. Says Michael Cuba, M.D., Regional Medical Director, “Our goal and our mission are to keep patients informed. The ER Wait Time, taken directly off the tracker at Ochsner Medical Center - Baton Rouge’s Emergency Department, does exactly that.” The average waiting time is now about 39 minutes. The goal is 30 minutes. 

Dr. Cuba advises patients to use the ER Wait Times as a tool to inform them about what to expect. Of course, there is no waiting for patients with severe life-threatening illness or trauma. They are always treated immediately. 

Baton Rouge is one of Ochsner’s most dynamic regions, offering hospital treatment, outpatient care and cutting-edge medical services at convenient neighborhood locations. Publicizing ER Wait Times and accepting most health insurance are two ways we are improving our service to our communities. 

Ochsner Baton Rouge-Accepted Health Plans

  • Aetna Health Inc. PPO/POS
  • BeechStreet/BestCare
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Traditional/HMO/PPO
  • CIGNA HealthCare of Louisiana
  • CorVel Corporation PPO/WC
  • Coventry HealthCare of Louisiana
  • DMA PPO (Diagnostics Management)
  • Employers Health Network
  • First Health Network PPO/WC
  • GEHA PPO USA (Government Employees)
  • Humana Gold Plus/Humana Choice (Medicare Advantage)
  • Humana HMO/PPO/POS
  • Humana Veterans Healthcare Service
  • Medicaid/Medicare
  • Multiplan/Private Health Care Systems/American LifeCare
  • National Preferred Provider Network
  • Office of Group Benefits PPO/EPO
  • PPOPlus PPO
  • Sterling Health Plan PPO & PFFS (Medicare Advantage)
  • Three Rivers PPO
  • TriCare/CHAMPUS/Humana Military
  • UnitedHealthcare of Louisiana HMO/PPO/POS/EPO/Indemnity
  • Universal American/Today’s Options PPO & PFFS (Medicare Advantage)
  • Universal Health Care PFFS (Medicare Advantage)
  • USA Managed Care Network PPO


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Chantal Lorio, DPM

Hyperbarics Treatment At Ochsner Kenner:  Saving Extremities

Refer a patient to Hyperbarics & Wound Care:  504-464-8686

Amputation seemed likely for a 48-year-old diabetic, treated at Ochsner last spring for advancing gangrene in his foot. 

Podiatrist Chantal Lorio, DPM, did surgery to drain deep abscesses, yet the patient's condition remained poor.  Then, Dr. Lorio referred him to Wound Care & Hyperbarics at Ochsner Medical Center - Kenner, where she is on staff.

As Easter weekend approached, fellow staff member James Campbell, M.D., Family Medicine, started immediate, intensive hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) to save the patient's extremity.

Dr. Campbell and Hyperbaric Technologist, Brandy Driskoll, worked throughout the holidays to administer HBOT—with excellent results.  The patient's foot was saved, and his prognosis is good. 

“In cases of this nature, which involve wounds with little or no circulation that haven't responded to medical and surgical therapy, the trend is to recommend amputation,” says Dr. Campbell.  “With HBOT, we can frequently avoid amputation. HBOT stimulates growth of small capillary blood vessels that enhance circulation.” 

Explains Dr. Lorio, “This patient was in immediate danger of losing his toes and perhaps his foot and leg.  This case was dramatic, yet it shows how hyperbarics can be a great adjunct therapy for all slow-to-heal wounds.  HBOT can jump start healing.”

She says that this case shows the dedication of the entire Wound Care & Hyperbaric staff to go the extra mile to help patients achieve positive results.

Wound Care & Hyperbarics uses a team approach, in which appropriate multidisciplinary specialists work together.  Dr. Campbell says, “We have the camaraderie and communications that make patient care the only priority.  The end results have been highly effective.” 

Wound Care &Hyperbarics offers state-of-the-art treatment for a wide range of conditions.  Services include wound care, bio-engineered tissue products, negative pressure wound therapy, complex off-loading techniques, and contact casting.

Hyperbarics & Wound Care Physicians

  • Mohammad Suleman, M.D.  General & Vascular Surgery 
  • James Campbell Jr., M.D.  Family Medicine
  • Eric Ehrensing, M.D.  Infectious Diseases
  • Chantal Lorio, DPM  Podiatry
  • Wagid Mando, M.D.  General & Vascular Surgery
  • Steven Mehaffey, M.D.  Hyperbaric Medicine, Certified Hyperbaricist
  • Leon Shingledecker, DPM  Podiatry


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Dr. Joseph Hajjar

State-Of-The-Art Open Bore MRI Latest North Shore Radiology Service

To refer patients to Open MRI at Ochsner Health Center -Covington, call 985-875-3162

Ochsner Health Center - Covington is now equipped with one of the most advanced open bore MRIs, offering superb resolution and state-of-the-art capabilities. It can scan patients up to 500 pounds in a calming environment.

“One unique feature of this magnet is the ability to do a renal artery MRA without giving the patient dye,” says Radiologist Joseph Hajjar, M.D., Associate Medical Director, Ochsner North Shore Region, and Regional Chair, Radiology. “Many area Nephrologists are using this feature. Patients needing this scan are often in renal failure, so the ability to do it without contrast is beneficial.” 

Ochsner was the first in the United States to order the Open Bore GE 450W MRI, installed last fall. With its 70 cm wide bore, it can accommodate virtually all patients while providing extremely high resolution and fast imaging times. Dr. Hajjar explains, “This new MRI has a wide bore, but it doesn’t compromise image quality like other wide models.”

It also offers unprecedented comfort for patients. Dr. Hajjar says the design is not only wide, but the magnet is less deep, eliminating the narrow crevasse-like opening seen in traditional open MRIs. The patient’s head can be outside the MRI, unless the head or cervical spine is being scanned. Most patients can go into the tunnel feet first. The design has more space around the head and shoulders to reduce claustrophobic effects even more.  A “skylight” feature gives the illusion of open space, and the MRI is in an area with wooden floors to create a warmer environment.

The new MRI is an excellent option for the estimated 10 percent of patients who are large or claustrophobic and for any patient needing unprecedented imaging capabilities.

Open MRI augments the array of advanced Radiology services available at Ochsner locations throughout the North Shore - Ultrasound, Vascular Ultrasound, PET/CT, CT, MRI and Nuclear Medicine. Contact Ochsner Medical Center - North Shore in Slidell and Ochsner Health Centers in Slidell, Covington and Hammond to learn more about specific Radiology services.  

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David Beck

Dr. David Beck

Ochsner Pioneers TEMS, Colorectal Robotic Surgeries

Information, Patient Referrals 504-842-4060

As one of the few centers in the Gulf South to offer Transrectal Endoscopic Microsurgery (TEMS) and robotics-assisted colorectal surgeries, Ochsner continues to pioneer innovative minimally invasive and sphincter-saving procedures. 

Over the past year, Ochsner surgeons have successfully performed TEMS (an outpatient procedure) on several dozen patients.  “Though each case is evaluated individually with a multidisciplinary approach, TEMS works well for small, early cancerous or benign lesions in the mid to upper rectum,” explains David Beck, M.D., Chairman, Colon and Rectal Surgery, and Ochsner Journal Editor-in-Chief.  “With TEMS, surgeons can remove polyps too large to be removed by colonoscope.”  TEMS is performed entirely through the anus, and patients are often discharged the same day.

Ochsner’s colorectal surgeons also are pursuing ground-breaking work in robotics surgeries and now offer procedures for rectal cancer and rectal prolapse.  “Essentially, any case that we can do with the laparoscope, we can do with the robot,” says Dr. Beck.  “However, robotics is best suited for surgeries confined to one part of the abdomen or rectum.” 

Colon and Rectal Surgery at Ochsner remains at the cutting-edge of innovation.  “Potentially, 40 to 60 percent of colorectal surgeries can be done with minimally invasive techniques,” Dr. Beck adds.  “There might be reasons not to do an individual case in this way, but we have options available.  For elderly or frail patients who are at high risk for open surgery, these techniques may be their best or only option.”

Minimally invasive techniques are helping Ochsner surgeons do effective surgeries that also preserve sphincter function--a combination that may not be readily available throughout the region.  “Data shows that at hospitals nationwide, only 40 percent of rectal cancer surgeries are sphincter-saving,” Dr. Beck says.  “Here at Ochsner, our percentage is over 85 percent.” 

For every colorectal surgery patient, Ochsner offers the advantages of comprehensive evaluation, skilled surgeons, active research, innovative techniques and advanced technologies, including TEMS, robotics and other sphincter-saving procedures.  Colorectal cancer patients, in particular, benefit from Ochsner’s multidisciplinary approach that supplies treatment and support from all the medical professionals needed to restore health and function.


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Jamie Huddleston

Dr. Jamie Huddleston

Ochsner St. Anne:  Hometown Healthcare Leader In Bayou Region

Learn more about Ochsner St. Anne services 985-537-2273 or ochsner.org/Stanne

In the new Ochsner St. Anne General Health Center in Raceland, Ochsner is reaching more patients than ever before with specialty care. 

“We’re definitely convenient to local patients,” says Neurologist Jamie Huddleston, M.D., FAAN, who has practiced at the St. Anne Center for three years. “This area is growing in population, and we have seen increased patient volumes and demand for medical care in response to that growth.” 

Located on the same campus as Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital, the St. Anne Specialty Clinic features a growing range of primary and specialty care including pediatric specialties, urology, psychiatry, dermatology and more. 

Dr. Huddleston’s practice represents the kind of specialty care Ochsner delivers in Lafourche Parish. Board-certified with a general neurology practice, Dr. Huddleston sees patients with headaches, stroke, neck and back pain, as well as conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. 

When her patients need quality acute care in a critical access hospital with 25 acute care and 10 psychiatry beds, Ochsner St. Anne General Hospital stands ready. The hospital has 24-hour emergency care, surgery, newly renovated maternity suites, state-of-the-art monitoring for mothers and babies and many other services. In cases in which more highly specialized care at a major center is needed, patients already are at the gateway to Ochsner facilities in New Orleans. Continuity of highest quality care is ensured. 

The St. Anne Specialty Clinic in Raceland is one of six Ochsner outpatient healthcare centers in Lafourche Parish. All provide primary and specialized care by leading physicians in convenient locations close to home for local residents. Ochsner also offers a local obstetrics/gynecology physician practice in Lafourche and advanced diagnostics such as 4D ultrasound.

Ochsner facilities in Lafourche accept all major health insurance plans, and physicians offer same/next day appointments. In the bayou region, Ochsner not only leads in providing healthcare, we’re growing each day to meet patient needs. 

Ochsner St. Anne General Health Center Physicians

  • Mohammad Nawaz, M.D.,  Internal Medicine
  • Ralph Benson, M.D.,  Urology
  • John King, M.D.,  Pulmonology
  • Brian Marino, M.D.,   Surgery
  • Jamie Bourgeois Huddleston, M.D.,  Neurology
  • Robert Cunningham, M.D.,  Pediatric Nephrology
  • Dmitriy Niyazov, M.D.,  Pediatric Genetics
  • Fernando Urrego, M.D.,  Pediatric Pulmonology
  • Brandy Gilmore, M.D., Psychiatry
  • Paula Wilt, M.D., Psychiatry
  • Zehra Jaffery, M.D., Cardiologist

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Ian Nygren, RN

Flight Care Soars with Exceptional Services

Arrange patient transports with Flight Care by contacting 1-855-OHS-LINK.  For more information, visit ochsner.org/RRC

Transporting critically ill patients since 1984, Ochsner’s Flight Care team has traveled as far as South Africa to serve a patient. 

Though most transports are in the Gulf Coast region, Flight Care is able to go anywhere, anytime for a patient, regardless of the distance. The team offers exceptional critical care services to patients from across the region and beyond.  

As a leading regional emergency and critical care transport service, Flight Care relies on jets, helicopters and ground transportation, as well as exceptionally trained transport teams.  

“Our team consists of at least two members, one RN and a paramedic or respiratory therapist. We also have the ability to bring a perfusionist and/or a physician,” explains Chief Flight Nurse Ian Nygren, RN. “We form an appropriate team for each patient where orders are started at the patient’s bedside as soon as we arrive at the referring hospital.”  

Physicians can request a Flight Care transport through the Regional Referral Center at the same time they call to initiate a patient transfer. The service is available round-the-clock for critically ill neonatal, pediatric, high risk obstetric and all adult patients. The most frequent transports are critically ill adults with stroke or cardiac issues. When patients are en route to Ochsner’s intensive care units, Flight Care automatically coordinates care with the appropriate Ochsner intensivist before leaving for the transport.  

With a spotless safety record, Flight Care has the experience and capabilities to handle “hot loads,” a way to save treatment time by loading patients without the helicopter’s rotors completely stopping. The process of completely shutting down engines before loading a patient and then restarting can add significant time to a transport. The team also is equipped with night-vision goggles, an extra safety measure. 

Flight Care’s team is dedicated to the unit and are not pulled from staffing in order to transport patients.  Each week, the RNs serve two Flight Care shifts and a third shift in an Ochsner Intensive Care Unit. The Flight Care Nurses hold certifications in Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP), as well as many other nationally recognized Critical Care certifications and have at least three years of critical care experience. This cross training sharpens their skills and keeps them at peak performance, ready to span the globe, if necessary, and deliver excellent critical care throughout the journey.  

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Marcus Ware

Dr. Marcus L. Ware

Ochsner Building Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program

For patient referral or consultation, call 504-842-4033

With cutting-edge treatments, advanced technologies, minimally invasive procedures, clinical trials and superbly trained staff, Ochsner is developing a major Brain Tumor Treatment Program to serve patients throughout the state and region.

“Everything we’re doing is moving us toward this goal,” explains Marcus L. Ware, M.D., PhD, Medical Director for Neurosurgical Oncology. “In clinical care, we’re working in three major areas – brain surgery with physiological mapping, skull-base surgery, and radiosurgery.” Each of these areas brings advanced treatments and benefits to patients who, until now, may have been traveling out of state for care.

Dr. Ware completed a skull-base fellowship at University of Arkansas, neurosurgery residency at University of California, San Francisco, and earned a PhD in neurobiology at Harvard, where he graduated medical school. 

Fully trained in motor, sensory and language mapping, Dr. Ware says these techniques help neurosurgeons to remove more of the tumor than in previous surgeries and preserve essential brain function. “Mapping also allows us to treat high-risk patients and expand the pool of eligible candidates for brain surgery.”

In skull-base surgery, Dr. Ware uses traditional surgery and open-end endoscopy for safer removal of tumors that may compress the brain stem and other important structures. 

Ochsner is making a major push to upgrade its radiosurgery capabilities, including the purchase of new technology with greater capabilities. “This high-dose, focused radiation enables us to treat tumors and other lesions in places that may be difficult to reach with conventional surgery. Because radiosurgery doesn’t require anesthesia, it can be offered to more patients,” he says.   

A neurosurgical oncologist is being recruited to join the staff. Research and clinical trials also are essential to the program’s growth. Dr. Ware is conducting an open trial with a pharmaceutical company for patients with central nervous system tumors who have failed standards of care. 

He summarizes, “We want to ensure that all patients within the Ochsner system have ready access to advanced, comprehensive services for brain tumors. By enhancing what has been available at Ochsner, we are on our way to becoming a major center for brain tumors in the region.”

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Victor Lucas

Dr. Victor “Sam” Lucas

Ochsner First In Region To Offer Non-Surgical Pulmonary Heart Valve Replacement 

For information and referrals 504-842-0391

Last spring, Ochsner made another revolutionary advance in heart care by completing the region’s first transcatheter pulmonary heart valve replacement, a non-surgical alternative to open-heart surgery for a congenital heart defect. 

Victor “Sam” Lucas, M.D., Section Head of Pediatric Cardiology, implanted the Melody transcatheter pulmonary valve in four patients, three children ages 10, 11 and 14, and a young adult. Each patient was discharged within 24 hours. 

“This is the first percutaneous pulmonary valve replacement option available in the U.S., and we’re the only center in the state offering it,” explains Dr. Lucas. “It is revolutionizing the way we implant heart valve replacements. It allows us to decrease the number of operations for patients, ensure a competent pulmonary valve and improve quality of life, especially by letting patients be active.” The Melody valve, the first FDA-approved device of its kind, is a tissue valve within a wire stent implanted in the cardiac catheterization lab. 

The pulmonary valve is abnormal in many forms of congenital heart defects.Dr. Lucas says most patients, as infants, will undergo open-heart surgery to add a patch or conduit to repair the valve. As patients age, they outgrow the previous repairs and will need new valve replacements. By the time they reach adolescence, they will have had at least one open-heart surgery. 

“Each day I witness the effects multiple open-heart surgeries have on patients’ health and the anxiety they and their families suffer,” he adds. This option frees them from the risks and stress. While the durability of the Melody valve is still being studied, it is proving highly successful in managing patients’ conditions and delaying surgeries. Adults are also candidates. 

About 25,000 babies with heart defects are born in the U.S. each year. Dr. Lucas says, “Effective management over a patient’s lifetime requires dedicated cooperation among congenital cardiac surgeons, interventional cardiologists and other clinicians. Together, we at Ochsner draw on a variety of treatment options, and the Melody valve is an important addition to the choices available to us.”

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Dr. John Phillips

Quality Drive Leads Ochsner West Bank To Save Lives, Earn Top Honors

Contact Ochsner Medical Center – West Bank Campus Emergency Department 504-391-5454, ochsner.org/Westbank

Two years ago, the Emergency Department at the Ochsner Medical Center– West Bank campus fired up a strategic initiative to improve quality, outcomes and volumes. 

The Department had grown significantly during the post-hurricane recovery period and wanted to keep improving. “We embraced the drive for quality,” says John Phillips, M.D., Medical Director, Emergency Department. “We adopted order sets based on national and international standards. We developed our own standards. Everybody got on board, and it was a tremendous success.”

Earlier this year, the hospital earned the HealthGrades® Distinguished Hospital Award – Clinical Excellence™ for ranking among the top five percent of U.S. hospitals. Ochsner Emergency Departments on the West Bank and Main Campus were the only two in the country to earn HealthGrades Five-Star ratings over the past two consecutive years.

“This means that our quality is saving lives,” says Dr. Phillips. “If you look at treatment outcomes at a five-star emergency department compared to a three-star department, 80 percent of lives are saved–in just one measure, sepsis treatment, over two years. We follow the standard that appropriate patients receive antibiotics within an hour of arrival. It makes a dramatic difference.”

Patients treated at Emergency Medicine Excellence Award hospitals had, on average, a 40 percent lower risk of mortality than at non-recipient hospitals, according to a HealthGrades study.
Patient volumes in the West Bank Emergency Department also have risen dramatically, from 26,000 to 53,000 annually over the past five years. Also enhancing care are Lifenet, which sends patient data from ambulance to ER in advance, and the telestroke program, in which data and video links connect patients to stroke neurologists at Ochsner’s Jefferson Highway campus. 

“This is a true team effort involving everyone in our department,” Dr. Phillips says. “I am proud that our ER physicians write every order for every patient ourselves. We have acquired new skill sets. Our goal continues to be delivering the highest quality emergency care to every West Bank resident.”

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