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NMMC celebrates surpassing 20,000 open heart surgeries

North Mississippi Medical Center’s Heart Institute recently reached a major milestone by surpassing 20,000 open heart surgeries.

Betty Graham of the Hurricane community in Pontotoc County became the 20,000th heart surgery patient at NMMC on July 5 when cardiothoracic surgeon David Talton, M.D., performed bypass surgery on five coronary arteries and repaired her heart’s mitral valve.

“Mother raises a big garden every year, and she had started getting short of breath,” said her daughter, Debra Miller, also of Hurricane. After an examination, her family doctor, Andrea Warren, D.O., of Pontotoc Medical Clinic referred her to cardiologist Steve Carroll, M.D., in Tupelo. After his exam, Dr. Carroll ordered a nuclear stress test and cardiac ultrasound.

heart_stethoscope“We were surprised because we thought there couldn’t be anything wrong with Mother’s heart,” Miller said. “She’s too hard a worker. Mother never goes to the doctor. She never had anything wrong with her, or so we thought. We hadn’t been home an hour before they called us to come to the Emergency Room in Tupelo.”

The tests showed that, unbeknownst to her, Graham had previously suffered a heart attack which significantly damaged her heart and required surgery. Miller said their family is large and extremely close to their mother, especially after she became a widow 15 years ago. Miller and all of her surviving siblings-Carolyn Warren of Endville; Paula White and Anna Crawford, both of Pontotoc; and Terry Graham of Hurricane-live nearby and visit often. “There were 31 of us waiting in the Intensive Care Unit while Mother had surgery,” Miller said.

It was only afterward that they truly appreciated the momentous occasion. “When Dr. Talton came in while they were prepping her for surgery, he told us she was going to be their 20,000th heart surgery patient,” Miller said. “I said, ‘just take care of my Mama.'”

Graham fared well after surgery and was discharged the following week. “It was a slow go at first, but now she is doing so much better,” Miller said. “She walks about a mile down her country road every day.” And while her family hasn’t let her back in the garden yet, she has helped shell butterbeans from its bounty.

NMMC’s heart program dates back to 1980, when the hospital received a certificate of need to perform heart catheterization and open heart procedures. The hospital’s first heart bypass surgery was done in January 1981, followed that February by the hospital’s first heart valve replacement surgery. Today NMMC’s Heart Institute is backed by the expertise of four cardiothoracic surgeons, 18 cardiologists and a network of internal medicine and family physicians, as well as other specialists and providers.

Since that time, the NMMC Heart Institute has led the state and nation with several new firsts:

• NMMC is the first Mississippi hospital to offer transfemoral and transapical aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a promising new alternative for high-risk patients with aortic stenosis for whom heart surgery is not an option. In the transfemoral method, the valve is delivered through an incision in the leg. NMMC is also the first to perform transapical TAVR for patients who don’t have suitable access through their leg artery. In the transapical method the valve is inserted through an incision between the patient’s ribs and through the bottom end of the heart called the apex.

• NMMC cardiologists implanted Absorb, the nation’s first drug eluting bioresorable vascular scaffold (BVS), as part of a research study. Absorb restores blood flow to the heart similar to a metal stent, supports the vessel until the artery can stay open on its own, then dissolves naturally. The result is a treated vessel that may resume more natural function and movement because it is free of a permanent metal stent.

• Local cardiac electrophysiologist Karl Crossen, M.D., developed a new procedure known as radiofrequency septal ablation to treat hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic disease where the heart’s septum is enlarged or thickened. This condition can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, congestive heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms which are sometimes fatal. Until now, the only treatments had been surgery to remove part of the septum or injecting alcohol into a blood vessel, which causes an area of the septum to die. In radiofrequency septal ablation, he uses an advanced cardiac mapping system to target the thickest part of the septum. Then he uses a catheter to deliver radiofrequency energy to ablate (or burn) the excess tissue and reduce the thickness.

• Two local men recently became the first patients to have major surgery for congenital heart defects at NMMC as a result of a cooperative effort with the Children’s Heart Center at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Vishal Sachdev, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon and chief of surgery at NMMC, operated with Jorge Salazar, M.D., chief of congenital heart surgery and co-director of the Children’s Heart Center at UMMC.

• Doctors at NMMC implanted the state’s first vagal nerve stimulator as part of a clinical research study to treat heart failure through nerve stimulation in the neck. Vagal nerve stimulation therapy is already FDA approved for other uses, but the INOVATE-HF clinical trial marks the first time it is being used to treat heart failure. Like a traditional pacemaker, the CardioFit device is implanted under the skin of the chest and attached to the heart-but it is also connected to a nerve in the neck. The device sends electrical pulses to the nerve, which sends signals to the heart. The clinical trial will assess whether combining CardioFit and drug therapy is more effective than treating with drug therapy alone.

• NMMC was among the first hospitals nationwide to implant the new Evia HF-T triple-chamber cardiac resynchronization therapy pacemaker. The device puts out pulses to keep the heart beating regularly and on time, improving the health of patients with bradycardia and heart failure. Its wireless home monitoring technology uses a cellular network to pick up information from the patient’s implanted device and transmit it to cardiologists daily. The device also measures thoracic impedance or lung fluid levels and alerts the physician before full-fledged heart failure develops.

• North Mississippi’s first hybrid operating room opened at NMMC in 2011. A cross between a cardiac catheterization laboratory and a surgical suite, the hybrid OR enables physicians to make a diagnosis and then quickly proceed with treatment, without moving the patient or scheduling separate times for procedures. Because it combines the capabilities of surgery with the most advanced imaging available, the hybrid OR paves the way for more minimally-invasive procedures.

To learn more about the innovative heart services available at NMMC, visit www.nmhs.net/heart_advances.php. Located on the second and third floors of NMMC’s East Tower, the Heart Institute is home to four state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs, as well as labs for echocardiography, electrophysiology and nuclear studies. The Heart Institute offers advanced cardiac treatment procedures, as well as cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services to help patients rebound physically and emotionally.

For more information about available services, call the NMMC Heart Institute at 1-800-THE DESK (1-800-843-3375) or visit www.nmhs.net/heart_institute.

Source: North Mississippi Medical Center

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