Open Heart Surgery Comes To Beaufort County 
 
Thursday, 02 January 2003 
 
 
Hilton Head Regional Medical Center has added open heart surgery to its scope of services.

 "This is a significant accomplishment for our hospital. We have been working on this project for several years and look forward to treating patients who require necessary open-heart procedures," said Dennis R. Bruns, CEO and President. "We cleared a lot of hurdles and legal opposition to have our own open-heart program."

In the past, patients were rushed to hospitals in Savannah, GA, or Charleston, SC, for open-heart procedures. "With this procedure offered on the island, patients and their families can receive treatment locally rather than traveling to another hospital 35 to 40 miles away in Savannah, or two-hours away in Charleston," he said. Over the last seven years, more than 800 patients have had to leave the island for open-heart surgery. Making these trips was not only burdensome for the patient, but also for their families who had to travel back and forth to hospitals to be with their family member during critical times.

Hilton Head Regional Medical Center officials recognized the need to have this procedure available on the island. Its heart center includes a team of cardiologists, nurses and other technicians trained to perform open-heart, and an eight-bed unit for hospitalization and recovery. Physicians can perform angioplasty, bypass surgery and heart valve repairs at the Heart Center. Patients and their family will receive education, counseling and other services as needed to make sure there is a smooth transition into surgery and for recovery.

The Medical Center's open-heart program is an expansion of its cardiovascular services, Bruns said. Since 1995, the Medical Center has provided cardiac catheterization, which helps to determine the extent of heart damage brought on by heart attacks and other conditions. In addition to open-heart, the Medical Center has adding a second catheterization lab to accommodate more patients.

With the open-heart unit on site, patients who once had to travel miles clinging to life in an ambulance or helicopter will have the treatment necessary close to them which may increase the chance of survival. It can also make the difference between mild and severe heart damage.

State and national figures show that cardiovascular disease is prevalent in Beaufort County area.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases rank as America's No. 1 killer, claiming the lives of over 40 percent of the nearly 2.4 million Americans who die each year. 61.8 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This includes diseases of the heart, stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, congenital heart defects, hardening of the arteries and other diseases of the circulatory system.

The leading cause of death in South Carolina is heart disease, according to the state Bureau of Epidemiology. In Beaufort County, heart disease ranks second to cancer disease. The Medical Center anticipates serving patients from Beaufort, Jasper and Hampton counties, which currently are more than an hour's drive away from an open-heart surgery center.

"Knowing that so many people in Beaufort County and other nearby counties are touched by heart disease and knowing how risky it was for people with severe heart problems to travel the extent they for treatment were reasons enough for us to have an open-heart center in the county and Lowcountry region," Bruns said.

In August of 2000, the Medical Center made its initial step toward an open-heart center. It applied to DHEC for a certificate of need for open-heart surgery. Its application was opposed by other hospitals in the region, including Beaufort Memorial Hospital in Beaufort, St. Joseph's/Candler Health Systems in Savannah and Roper Hospital in Charleston. Their appeals and challenges were rejected or withdrawn. Initial approval of the island hospital's application was granted in April 2001.

Since its approval, Hilton Head Regional Medical Center had entered into an agreement with University Medical Associates of the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for the clinical management and oversight of the open-heart surgery program. MUSC recently was named to the 2002 list of 100 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals and was the only hospital in South Carolina to make this accomplishment. The Hilton Head Regional Medical Center open-heart surgery program is designed to comply with all the applicable standards of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the American College of Surgeons.

The hospital plans to revamp its old intensive care unit into a heart center for patients and families. Medical Center officials project that 235 open-heart surgeries will be performed by the third year of operations.

"This center will truly be one that our community can be proud of," Bruns said. "Most of all, we want to save lives right at home."

 
 
 
 
 
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