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Open Heart Surgery & Treatment at St. Luke's 

St. Luke's has performed open heart surgery since 1978, making it the longest-tenured heart program in the area. As the Cedar Rapids Heart Hospital, St. Luke's is committed to caring for all aspects of the heart. Our team of cardiologists is the largest in Cedar Rapids and offers the most comprehensive heart care in the area. They are continually introducing the most advanced procedures in Cedar Rapids. That means you can stay close to home for all your heart care. 

Open Heart Surgery at St. Luke's 

Open heart surgery is the traditional way St. Luke's Heart Care surgeons repair various heart problems, such as: 

  • Abnormal areas or holes in the heart 

  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) 

  • Coronary artery disease (buildup of hardened calcium, or plaque, that narrows or blocks arteries and reduces blood flow to the heart) 

  • Heart defects present from birth (congenital heart defects) 

  • Heart failure 

  • Valvular diseases or damage (leaky or non-functioning heart valves) 

Diagnoses for these conditions are made by a general cardiologist, who then refers patients to a cardiothoracic surgeon for open-heart surgery or to an interventional cardiologist for a catheter-based procedure. 

Learn how heart problems are diagnosed 

Drs. James Levett, Physicians' Clinic of Iowa cardiothoracic surgeon (retired), and Ryan Sundermann, medical director of UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital Emergency Department, talk about how a diagnosis is made, along with what happens during open-heart surgery and the teamwork that happens between St. Luke's Emergency Department and St. Luke's Heart Care Clinic. 


Watch an open-heart surgery in St. Luke's OR

UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital takes you inside the heart for aortic valve replacement surgery, with Dr. Garry Weide, cardiothoracic surgeon from Physician's Clinic of Iowa and St. Luke's Heart Care Clinic. The patient was born with a bicuspid aortic valve (one with only two leaflets instead of three). Eventually, that led to aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the valve opening due to a buildup of hardened calcium, which required open heart surgery.

Heart Procedures at St. Luke's

After meeting with a St. Luke's cardiologist, patients may be referred to one of St. Luke's interventional cardiologists, who are specifically trained to perform catheter-based procedures like the ones listed below. St. Luke's offers the most comprehensive heart care and performs the most complex procedures in Cedar Rapids, often receiving referrals from other area hospitals, so there's no need for patients to travel out of town for their heart care.

Angioplasty

To treat arterial blockages, St. Luke's cardiologists may use balloon angioplasty, a small, inflatable device that opens a narrowed artery. Once the artery is opened with angioplasty, stents may be inserted. A stent presses the plaque against the artery wall to keep the artery open. Because scar tissue can develop around the stent, some patients may receive stents that release medicine to prevent scarring. 

Cryoablation

A potentially life-saving treatment for patients with arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), cryoablation temporarily freezes the heart tissue in order to restore normal rhythm. This allows St. Luke's cardiologists to locate and repair the source of the arrhythmia without damaging the heart. It is performed on an outpatient basis in only a few hours, and patients can resume normal activities in a matter of days.

Enhanced External Counterpulsation (EECP)

For patients with angina (chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart), a St. Luke's cardiologist may utilize EECP, a method that involves placing inflatable external cuffs on the legs to create natural bypasses around clogged arteries. This treatment increases blood flow to the heart and can greatly reduce and even eliminate the almost paralyzing pain that accompanies angina.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator

Patients who experience more serious arrhythmia may benefit from an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. A St. Luke's interventional cardiologist implants this heartbeat-regulating device under the skin of the upper chest with the use of numbing medicine, or sometimes general anesthesia. During the procedure, the wires are guided to the heart via X-ray images.

MitraClip

St. Luke's was the first to offer MitraClip in Cedar Rapids. It is appropriate for patients diagnosed with mitral regurgitation (a leaky mitral valve) and are too high risk for surgical valve repair or replacement. MitraClip is an alternative to open heart surgery.

One of the four major heart valves, the mitral valve connects the left upper chamber of the heart to the left lower chamber. It has two leaflets, and over time, the valve can become diseased and leak (regurgitate). This can cause fatigue and shortness of breath.

A St. Luke's interventional cardiologist attaches the MitraClip to the mitral valve to decrease the gap between the two leaflets. As a result, the valve is able to close more completely. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and involves making an incision in the groin and using a catheter through a vein to deploy the device. Patients typically stay one night in the hospital.

Shockwave

St. Luke's introduced and is the only hospital in Cedar Rapids that offers the Shockwave procedure. Shockwave involves the insertion of a catheter and emitter through the wrist or leg arteries. When St. Luke's cardiologists turn on the device, it sends a pulse into the vessel wall to break down the hardened material. The artery can then be more easily expanded and a stent implanted. Shockwave is also known as intravascular lithotripsy (IVL) because it is based on the same lithotripsy technology used to safely break up kidney stones.

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

One of the newest treatments for aortic stenosis is Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), a procedure that St. Luke's Heart Care team introduced to Cedar Rapids in 2016. TAVR is for patients who are high-risk or too sick for open-heart surgery. It is a catheter-based procedure whereby a St. Luke's interventional cardiologist delivers a replacement valve to the heart through an artery in the groin.

TAVR greatly improves a patient's quality of life. Additionally, since it does not require a surgeon to open the chest, TAVR patients generally recover more quickly, allowing them to return to their jobs, families and lives sooner. 

Watchman

Also known as the atrial appendage closure, the Watchman procedure is appropriate for patients at risk of developing clots in their left atrium. The device is designed to reduce a patient's risk of stroke and eliminate the need to take blood-thinning medication.

Watchman is a small device placed in the part of the heart where clots are most likely to form. The device acts as a barrier to keep clots from entering the bloodstream. St. Luke's interventional cardiologists implant Watchman through a catheter inserted in the leg, similar to the procedure for inserting a stent. 


For more information about heart disease, any of these treatment options or to make an appointment with a cardiologist, contact St. Luke's Heart Care Clinic via email or call (319) 364-7101.