PARKERSBURG - For a number of years, cardiac medical services have reached into the heart of the Mid-Ohio Valley to provide people with needed medical care locally.
For more than eight years, open-heart surgery and a variety of cardiac programs have been available at the former St. Joseph's Hospital, now the St. Joseph's Campus of Camden Clark Medical Center.
The Open Heart Surgery Program started on April 5, 2004. It began as a contractual agreement between then-St. Joseph's Hospital and the heart surgeons at the Charleston Area Medical Center to provide heart surgery for stable, low-risk patients.
An operating room at the Camden Clark Medical Center’s St. Joseph’s Campus where open-heart surgery is performed. The heart surgery program started on April 5, 2004, and has grown to include 1,238 open heart surgeries and 835 thoracic surgeries. Estimates are 250 open-heart procedures to be done by the end of this year.
''As expected, the program has grown steadily in volume and immensely in scope and quality since then,'' said Greg Smith, marketing director. ''Under the leadership of Dr. Jose Cruzzavala, the heart program at Camden Clark Medical Center, St. Joseph's Campus, is thriving.''
As of March 26, 2012, there have been 1,238 open-heart surgeries, and 835 thoracic surgeries have been performed on the St. Joseph's Campus, officials said. Since Cruzzavala's arrival in August 2010, 388 heart surgeries have been performed.
"When I look to the future I see good service for the patients in the Mid-Ohio Valley,'' Cruzzavala said. "I expect when more people from the area realize that we can perform safely any adult cardiac procedure short of cardiac transplantation, the program will grow even more.
''We have the capability to use a biventricular assist device when needed in the cath lab or operating room. We are also fortunate that in the very near future we'll have a thoracic surgeon proficient in minimally invasive thoracic surgery for the treatment of pulmonary and esophageal disorders."
In addition to Cruzzavala, the heart team consists of four anesthesiologists, a physician's assistant, six RNs and surgical tech staff and two perfusionists.
The experience and competence of the staff and Cruzzavala have impacted the types of patients now receiving heart surgery at the Camden Clark Medical Center, Smith said.
''Besides CABG (coronary artery bypass surgery), it is common to have multiple procedures, such as valve repair/ replacement, done at the same time as coronary artery bypass grafting,'' he said. ''Dr. Cruzzavala also performs MIDCAB (minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass), maze procedures for atrial fibrillation, minimally invasive valve surgery, aneurysm repair of the thoracic aorta and hypothermic circulatory arrest for complex aneurysm repair, to name a few.''
As Cruzzavala is the only open-heart surgeon at the medical center, handling 3-5 cases a week, efforts are under way to recruit another cardiothoracic surgeon as a backup and to expand services, said Allison Maher, director of Cardiovascular Services.
The center is hoping to finish the year with around 250 open heart procedures.
''That is good for one guy,'' Maher said. ''That is a big number.''
Over the past few years, there has also been an increase in cardiac catheterizations and interventions locally, Maher said of people who need stints put in to open block arteries but do not need full open heart surgery.
Since St. Joseph's Hospital merged last year with Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital to form the Camden Clark Medical Center, there are now two cath labs at the St. Joseph's Campus and one cath lab and a special procedures room at the Memorial Campus.
''We keep them busy all of the time,'' Maher said. ''What we have done since the merger is we have cross trained all of our cardiac catheterization staff to be able to work on either campus so if you are having a heart attack and you need an immediate intervention, you go to the Memorial Campus even though the bulk of the work is done at St. Joseph's, we can still take care of you.
''We can take care of just about anything that comes through our doors.''
The medical center is involved in doing much more complex interventions on high-risk people who may not be able to have surgery, Maher said, adding new technologies are making it possible to do more complex procedures and be able to do them safely. They also have the open heart backup at the St. Joseph Campus if needed.
The St. Joseph's Campus has an eight-bed open heart unit.
''On any given day we have seven-eight patients a day in there,'' Maher said.
Feedback from patients has been good, she said with many being very positive about the treatment they have received.
Heart disease is still the No. 1 cause of death in West Virginia and the United States, officials said.
The medical center continues to work in treating heart disease as well as working to prevent it.
''People are living longer, because of our technologies,'' Maher said. ''The primary thing with heart disease is prevention.''
The medical center is continually involved in health fairs and expos as well as programs in schools and businesses that promote healthy habits.
''Risk factors for heart disease remain smoking and cholesterol,'' Maher said. ''Educating the public to prevent it is really the key.
''We are trying to look at it from all angles.''
The medical center has continually supported the open heart program as well as the catheterization services.
"Regarding angioplasties, to date we have done more than 4,000 angioplasties between the two campuses since 2004." said Mike King, president and chief executive officer at Camden Clark Medical Center. "We look forward to expanding our heart program and team concept in the future to provide our patients the best possible care right here at home.
Dr. David Gnegy, a cardiologist, has been at St. Joseph's since 1995 and has seen the the heart programs develop.
''I have seen this program grow from diagnostic catheterizations to the point we are able to fix people who come in with an acute MI and provide open-heart surgery,'' he said. ''With the addition of Dr. Cruzzavala, we have been able to develop our program that we are doing complex cases with his expertise.
''The program is growing exponentially. The next step is to bring another person in, because one person can only do so much. With that, I see us really taking off and being being a regional center for for heart care.''