UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids unveils Heart and Vascular Institute

UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids, which consists of St. Luke’s Hospital and UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology, and the cardiovascular surgeons from Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa are unveiling a new Heart and Vascular Institute, the first and only in Cedar Rapids.

It’s a team of providers working together, to provide Eastern Iowans with access to the highest level of cardiac care, so patients will not need to leave Cedar Rapids for heart care. 

St. Luke’s, the city’s only nationally recognized heart program and UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology, the area’s largest and oldest cardiology practice, along with the Heart and Vascular surgeons from Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa have joined together to advance and improve heart and vascular care services for Eastern Iowans.

The Institute will treat the most complicated heart conditions and offers:

  • Better patient experience
  • Better coordinated care
  • Reduced costs by avoiding duplication of services such as diagnostic testing 
  • Clinical trials and research 
  • Leading edge technology and cardiovascular care 

This cardiovascular expertise provides eastern Iowans access to heart care experts with advanced training and a wide range of specialties that focus on the following areas:

  • Cardiac and vascular surgery 
  •  Cardiovascular imaging 
  • Electrophysiology 
  • Advanced heart failure treatment and care 
  • Heart disease prevention 
  • Clinical trials and research 
  • Structural heart disease (including nonsurgical cardiac valve implantation) 
  • Coronary and vascular therapeutics 

Patients Benefit from Advanced Heart Care Training

Patients like Sherrie Dingle, 71 of Anamosa and Bill Lockhart, 72 of Amana are the beneficiaries of this new and advanced level of cardiac care now available. Both individuals recently had stents placed to open blockages in their heart arteries using support from a new FDA approved medical device called, Impella 2.5,  described as, “the world’s smallest heart pump.”

“The Impella is mostly used for high risk heart patients,” said Dr. Wassef Karrowni, UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology. “These are patients with complex coronary artery disease and a heart function that is too weak to survive heart bypass surgery or a standard heart catheterization procedure.”

The Impella heart pump is inserted in the cardiac catheterization lab through a small incision in the femoral artery (groin area). The pump is then advanced in the circulatory system and positioned in the patient’s left ventricle. It acts as a temporary artificial heart – pumping blood throughout the body and thus maintaining blood flow during a cardiac procedure and also providing time for the heart to recover.

“During stent placement you have to briefly block blood flow,” said Dr. Georges Hajj, UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology. “When you block blood flow on a heart that is very weak you may have problems. The heart may stop or the patient’s blood pressure may decrease. We use the Impella pump to provide some blood flow as we repair the main artery.”  

“I was having a heart attack,” said Dingle. “The staff at St. Luke’s Emergency Room (ER) determined I needed treatment right away.”

“Sherrie’s case was a matter of life and death,” said Dr. Karrowni. “I remember she kept telling me she wanted to be alive long enough to meet her unborn grandbaby, which was due soon. Sherrie’s heart had prior heart disease and when you add the fact she was having a heart attack made it very risky to perform a standard heart catheterization procedure. I knew she would be a good candidate to use the Impella pump.”

The Impella 2.5 received FDA approval last month after clinical studies. Drs. Karrowni and Hajj had used the Impella pump during their medical training. “The first use of the Impella pump in Cedar Rapids was on Dec, 16, 2014,” said Dr. Hajj. “I used it on Bill Lockhart. He came to me seeking a second opinion after he was told he was in heart failure and only had six months to live.”

“I had met with hospice nurses and thought I was done,” said Lockhart. “When Dr. Hajj said he could help me, it was like getting new life. I can’t put into words how I felt.”
“Bill is the type of patient this heart pump was designed for,” said Dr. Hajj. “His very low heart function made him high risk for heart bypass surgery. And we wouldn’t consider placing a stent without that pump because of his weak heart. We used the heart pump for his cath procedure and he did very well.”

“I shouldn’t be alive today,” said Lockhart. “My prognosis of only six months to live is past due but I am alive and so very thankful.”

Dingle is also grateful for the new specialized services available through the Heart and Vascular Institute. The advanced, specialized heart care allowed her live to see that new grandbaby – a boy born shortly after her heart procedure. “I am so glad this procedure and care was available in Cedar Rapids,” said Dingle. “I don’t think I would be here today without it.”

“Both  Sherrie and Bill are examples of the advanced interventional cardiology that’s now available through our new Heart and Vascular Center,” said Dr. Todd Langager, MD, Medical Director of UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids Heart and Vascular Institute. “We are very excited about our announcement because this is good news for patients with diagnosed and undiagnosed heart conditions.

Doctors at the new Heart and Vascular Institute will have the expertise to treat 95 percent of heart-related issues so patients are able to stay close to home. No longer will there be a need to seek treatment outside of Cedar Rapids for heart care because that specialized care is right here in our community. The establishment of a Heart and Vascular Institute builds on our long history of being a leader and innovator in heart care excellence.”

History of heart care innovation at UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids:

  • 1966 - Cardiac Care Unit opened
  • 1978 - First and only Cedar Rapids hospital to offer open-heart surgery
  • 1983 - First Cedar Rapids Cardiac Rehabilitation program established
  • 1995 - First Cedar Rapids hospital to offer cardiac stents
  • 2000 - Nassif Heart Center opened
  • 2002 - First Iowa hospital to introduce the hypothermia protocol for cardiac arrest patients
  • 2004  - Named a Top 100 Cardiovascular Hospital for the first time
  • 2006 - Transition to Home program for heart failure patients began
  • 2007 - First Cedar Rapids hospital to perform patent foramen ovale (PFO)/atrial septal defect (ASD) closure
  • 2009 -  Cardiologists, L.C. joins St. Luke's Hospital
  • 2010 - Received full accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) from the Society of Chest Pain Centers
  • 2013 - One of three hospitals in the world using a high-resolution electrophysiology (EP) catheter
  • 2013 - Cardiologists, L.C. changes its name to UnityPoint Clinic Cardiology and opens in the Physicians' Clinic of Iowa Medical Pavilion
  • 2013 - St. Luke's receives full accreditation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care
  • 2014 - First in Cedar Rapids to use the Artic Front Advance Cardiac Cryoballoon System
  • 2014  - St. Luke's develops a program for treating chronic coronary disease; chronic total occlusions (CTO)

Additionally UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids has been named a top cardiovascular hospital by Truven Health six times in the last ten years and made the Becker's Hospital Review list of "100 Hospitals With Great Heart Programs” and again in 2013, received full accreditation as a Chest Pain Center with PCI from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. These national, independent organizations recognized UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids’ quality of care, which has fewer complications, better outcomes and higher survival rates. Hospitals cannot pay to be included on these lists.

To learn more about UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids’ Heart and Vascular Institute visit our St. Luke's Heart Care Page or call  (319) 364-7101.

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