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Highest Rating for Hearts

Posted On September 16, 2014

The care you need; the skills to make it happen.

 By Jennifer Wilson

 Lexington Medical Center, Lexington SC

Lexington Medical Center’s cardiovascular program has earned the highest designation given to hospitals – a three-star rating for heart surgery – from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS). For the year 2013, only 15 percent of heart programs nationwide have achieved this prestigious level, which is a designation that recognizes quality and clinical excellence.

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has developed a comprehensive rating system for the quality of coronary artery bypass surgery among hospitals across the country. Lexington Medical Center ranked in the highest quality tier for 2013, earning the three-star rating. The STS 2013 analysis included more than 1,000 heart programs nationally.

“The three-star designation shows that patients who undergo cardiac surgery at Lexington Medical Center receive outstanding clinical care along with the wonderful caring environment that the community has come to expect,” said Dr. Jeffrey Travis, Lexington Medical Center heart surgeon. “The three-star rating is widely regarded by clinicians as the gold standard by which to evaluate cardiac surgery programs.”

A Duke Medicine affiliate, Lexington Medical Center began its complete cardiac care program in 2012. The hospital expected to perform about 100 open heart surgeries each year. But the program has far exceeded expectations. To date, the hospital has performed more than 500 open heart surgeries. As reflected in the three-star rating, patients have experienced excellent outcomes.

Lexington Medical Center has also earned full chest pain accreditation with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC). To receive this accreditation, Lexington Medical Center demonstrated its ability to quickly assess, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack. By becoming an accredited chest pain center, Lexington Medical Center has enhanced the quality of care for cardiac patients and showed its commitment to the highest standards.

The hospital has continued to build its heart program by offering a variety of new services. This spring, Lexington Medical Center began to offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement, known as TAVR. This state-of-the-art cardiovascular technology allows doctors to replace the aortic valve without open heart surgery.

“TAVR is the most significant advancement in cardiology since coronary angioplasty,” said Dr. Robert Leonardi of Lexington Cardiology, who performs TAVR at Lexington Medical Center.

Currently, TAVR is for patients with severe aortic stenosis who are high-risk candidates for open heart surgery because of their age, history of heart disease, or other health issues.

Patients with severe aortic stenosis have a narrowed aortic valve that does not allow blood to flow efficiently. As the heart works harder to pump enough blood through the smaller opening in the valve, the heart eventually becomes weak. Over time, that can lead to life-threatening heart problems.

To replace the diseased aortic valve with TAVR, the new aortic valve is compressed into a catheter. Doctors thread the catheter through the body to the inside ofthe diseased aortic valve. Then, they deploythe new valve insidethe diseased aortic valve, which becomes the anchor for the new valve. The new valve is functional immediately and normal blood flow is restored.

Lexington Medical Center performed the first fully percutaneous TAVR procedure in South Carolina. With this minimally invasive technique, doctors deployed the new aortic valve through just a small puncture in the femoral artery in the leg.

By letting go of artificial boundaries between heart surgeons and interventional cardiologists, Lexington Medical Center is pleased to be using a collaborative, team-based approach to help patients with heart valve disease in our community. The team is made up of physicians from Lexington Cardiology and Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery. 

Additionally, Lexington Medical Center now offers non-surgical closure for holes in the heart called atrial septal defects (ASDs) and patent foramen ovale (PFO). Like TAVR, this minimally invasive procedure eliminates the need for open heart surgery, resulting in shorter hospital stays and faster recovery.

Patients with ostium secundum ASD, a birth defect that is one of the most common ASDs, have a hole in the wall of the heart that separates the upper two chambers. This causes blood to flow across the opening from the left atrium to the right atrium. While those with small atrial defects may never have symptoms or complications, people with larger defects are at greater risk for heart failure, arrhythmias or stroke. Many of these patients aren’t identified until adulthood when they begin to develop symptoms, such as shortness of breath.

During the procedure, the physician makes a small incision, typically in the groin, and inserts a catheter to reach the defect. The physician guides the device through the catheter and slowly pushes it out to cover the defect, sealing it closed. LMC offers this non-surgical option to adults.

Lexington Medical Center has also developed an advanced electrophysiology program to diagnose and treat patients with cardiac arrhythmias. Dr. William Brabham with Lexington Cardiology is board certified in cardiac electrophysiology and performs ablations for atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, supraventricular tachycardia, and ventricular tachycardia. In addition, the program has an experienced team of cardiologists that implant cardiac devices including pacemakers, defibrillators, and biventricular pacing systems. 

Lexington Medical Center has also begun to use insertable cardiac monitors, commonly known as loop recorders, to diagnose heart rhythm problems. These small devices, placed under the skin with a small surgical procedure, monitor heart rhythms around the clock. While versions of this technology have been available for years, new loop recorders are as small as a paper clip and require an incision of just a few millimeters.

Importantly, quality oversight is part of LMC’s affiliation with Duke Medicine for cardiovascular care. Twice each year, Duke cardiologists and heart surgeons come to LMC to review heart surgery and catheterization cases with physicians. The Duke physicians also provide ongoing peer review and evaluate new procedures for both the open heart and Cath Lab programs. When the hospital performs new procedures for the first time, a Duke representative is usually present for support.

Lexington Medical Center has physician practices that are dedicated to the care of people with cardiovascular disease: Lexington Cardiology, Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery and Sumter Cardiology.

Lexington Medical Center’s work with cardiovascular care extends into the community with a robust heart education program. Heart disease is an epidemic in South Carolina. One out of every three people in South Carolina dies of cardiovascular disease. Lexington Medical Center is working to teach our community about risk factors, prevention and cardiac technology.

For more information about Lexington Medical Center’s heart program, visit LexMed.com.

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