Cardiac Services

PARKERSBURG – For 10 years, cardiac services have reached into the heart of the Mid-Ohio Valley to provide the community with needed medical care locally.

This past Friday, the St. Joseph’s Campus of Camden Clark Medical Center commemorated a decade of open-heart surgery and cardiac programs at the former St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The Open Heart Surgery Program 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.

St. Joseph’s Hospital did a $20 million expansion project in the early 2000s, which included building new operating rooms to accommodate the needs of open heart surgery.

The program has steadily grown over the years to include more intensive open-heart services for a variety of patients and needs.

”To date, since the open heart surgery program started, the St. Joseph’s campus has done 1,563 procedures,” Director of Cardiac Services Allison Maher said. ”Also during that time, with the open heart program going on, we also have done 4,740 Percutaneous Coronary Interventions in the cath lab to open up blocked arteries with a stint.”

In order to do the PCIs, the hospital had to have open heart surgery available as a back-up.

The Memorial Campus started PCIs in 2010 and they have done 272 PCIs.

St. Joseph’s Catherization Lab began in 1988 as a diagnostic lab where patients could have problems, like blockages, diagnosed. However, at the time, patients had to be sent to Morgantown, Charleston or Columbus for actual treatment.

In securing open heart surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital, officials pointed out patients would be closer to home and family; there would be a better flow of information from medical personnel to the patient; faster treatment with less waiting; and less of a physical, emotional and economic hardship on the family of the patients.

The first open heart operation at St. Joseph’s was done April 5, 2004 on Doris Cantwell by Dr. Zafrullah Khan and Dr. Kee Lee.

At Friday’s reception, Cantwell recalled her physician, Dr. Stanley Pamfilis, telling her she needed a triple bypass.

“He said, ‘You’re going to be our first open-heart patient. Can you handle it?'” she said. “And I said, ‘I can.'”

Cantwell remembered being surprised at the number of people awaiting her in the operating room.

“It was crowded,” she said. “There was probably enough doctors and nurses to take care of the whole hospital.”

Maher credited the staff and Cantwell’s own attitude with the positive outcome.

“It was a success story from the beginning,” she said.

Dr. Jose Cruzzavala is the open heart surgeon now. He has more than 25 years of open heart experience and has done thousands of open heart procedures.

”Dr. Cruzzavala has been here for several years and he is just amazing,” Maher said.

The staff that is still at St. Joseph’s who originally worked in the open heart program when it first started are Anesthesiologist Dr. William Pippin, Physician’s Assistant Ben Morgan, Surgical Technologist John Justice and Registered Nurse Kay Deem.

”There have been many people in and out with the program,” Maher said.

There are currently around 60 people, including staff and physicians in the cardiac program which includes the Cath Lab, the Open Heart Team, the Cardiovascular ICU and Cardiology Support Services.

”It has continued to grow as we have taken care of so many patients,” Maher said.

Over the last 10 years, changes have occurred locally in what can be provided and new technologies and procedures have opened up what they are able to do.

”When we started the program, we were doing patients who needed heart surgery that were stable with straight forward procedures, nothing complicated,” Maher said. ”Now, we pretty much do everything. We do patients that have very complex disease that may need more than one procedure, like bypass, valve replacement and so on.”

The trend now is minimally invasive cardiac surgery.

”What that does is it is a smaller incision and there is less recuperation time, less pain, less infection and less complications for the patient,” Maher said. ”We do that here, we do minimally invasive valve surgery, aortic valve, microvalve and tricuspid valve surgeries.”

Not all hospitals have surgeons who are proficient in those procedures.

Another change over the last 10 years has been better technology and equipment.

One thing that has been utilized recently in the operating room has been 3-D transesophageal echocardiography, especially in heart valve replacements.

”When the doctor is working on a valve, the doctor can use a probe to see if he has the valve seated right and things are going well rather than just using his eyes,” Maher said. ”It is a ultrasound examination that is in color and three dimensional. We can use that now.”

When St. Joseph’s started the open heart program, they did not do many valve replacements because those patients tended to be more complex.

”Now we do as many valves as we do bypass graphs,” Maher said. ”We also do the Maze procedure which is a treatment for Atrial Fibrillation. A person comes in with a ruptured aorta, we can take care of that. In the beginning, we were very conservative. Now we take care of just about anything.”

The medical center’s cardiac program is rated by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

”The STS has a comprehensives ratings system that assesses the quality of cardiac surgery among hospitals across the country,” Maher said. ”The Camden Clark Medical Center has achieved a three-star rating which is the highest quality tier. Approximately, 12-15 percent of hospitals across the country receive a three-star rating.”

According to the data, the overall cardiac surgical performance of the hospital was found to lie in the highest quality tier.

”The combined experience of the open heart surgeons and the team here is astronomical,” Maher said. ”We have made a lot of progress over the years. We are very proud of the program.”

The program is much appreciated by Washington, W.Va., husband and wife Adrain and Anita Adams. Anita had a procedure in 2007, and her husband became an open-heart patient as well in 2011.

“I feel like they’ve done miracles up here,” Anita Adams said. “We’re just so lucky to have this here.”