Although most hospitals in the region handle vascular surgery, the St. Luke Hospitals in Northern Kentucky believe they have carved out an important niche in Greater Cincinnati by establishing the St. Luke Regional Vascular Institute.

The four-year-old unit at St. Luke West in Florence has a staff of about 20 who are devoted exclusively to the treatment of vascular illness.

“Other hospitals do this as part of their surgery programs, but all we do here is vascular surgery. We do one thing and one thing only,” explains Guy Karrick, a St. Luke spokesman.

Karrick says St. Luke is convinced that the tight focus of the institute, and an experienced staff of well-trained professionals, produce better outcomes for patients.

The institute is headed by Dr. John Edwards, a board-certified vascular surgeon who stepped down in 2004 as the chief of vascular surgery at University Hospital in Cincinnati to establish the institute for the St. Luke Hospitals. Edwards has said repeatedly that the key to a successful outcome is“fitting the treatment to the patient, not the patient to the treatment,” Karrick notes.

The range of service at the institute covers the entire spectrum of vascular care, from patient and family education about the disease — sitting down and talking with an expert — to some of the most sophisticated surgery that’s being done in the country, Karrick says.

The most common type of vascular surgery is inserting a stent (a metal mesh tube) into an artery that has been clogged with plaque, to facilitate blood flow.

The St. Luke Hospitals also are undergoing major transitions of ownership and control this year. St. Luke is deeply enmeshed in complex litigation over its decision to withdraw from the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, and intends to merge with St. Elizabeth Medical Center once it’s granted a divorce from the alliance.