Open heart surgery at UHS celebrates 30th anniversary
UHS is marking an important milestone in the history of medicine in New York’s Southern Tier – the arrival of open heart surgery in Greater Binghamton three decades ago this month.
During March, UHS is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the start-up of the invasive cardiology and cardiac surgery program at UHS Hospitals, following a lengthy state approval process that featured a groundswell of community support for the service.
“Our program reflects the mission of our organization to provide patients with convenient access and high quality in advanced clinical services,” said John Carrigg, president and chief executive officer of UHS. “The program also demonstrates the commitment of people in our community to ensuring that exceptional care exists right here, in our own region.”
A major milestone
In the late 1980s, a number of community residents and UHS leaders banded together for a petition drive to bring open heart surgery to Greater Binghamton, urging approval by the New York State Department of Health. In 1989, the UHS program became the first one approved in the Empire State in 15 years.
The cardiac surgery suite opened at UHS Binghamton General Hospital in March 1989, with the first procedure performed on March 21. By July, 100 operations had been completed.
Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (angioplasty, stenting) was launched in September 1989, with the heart program then dedicated as the Robert M. Best Center for Cardiac Services in honor of Southern Tier civic leader Bob Best.
In February 1991, the cardiology and cardiac surgery programs, along with two cardiac catheterization laboratories, were relocated to UHS Wilson Medical Center.
The founding surgeons were Richard Cunningham, MD, and Bashar Yousuf, MD. They were joined two years later by Kenneth Wong, MD. Dr. Wong is still with the program, and was joined recently by Daniel Beckles, MD. Rohit Shahani, MD, plans to join the practice later this spring.
Today, UHS' heart services operate under the umbrella of the UHS Heart & Vascular Institute, offering a comprehensive array of medical, surgical and minimally invasive responses to cardiovascular conditions. Moreover, UHS Wilson is a designated chest pain and stroke center.
The establishment and growth of the program have been life-changing for New York’s Southern Tier. In prior years, patients had to travel at least 50 miles to reach a center offering cardiac surgery.
“UHS’ entry into cardiothoracic surgery three decades ago enabled our residents to receive exceptional care closer to home,” said Kim Pilarchik, director of Cardiovascular Services at UHS.
“Since its founding, UHS' heart program has helped assure the quality and patient-centeredness of cardiac services available in our community,” said Afzal ur Rehman, MD, PhD, vice president for Clinical Informatics and Cardiovascular Services at UHS. “At the same time it has aided in the establishment of UHS as a regional referral center for tertiary-level medical care.”
At the onset, the program offered coronary artery bypass grafting (also known as CABG), heart valve replacement and thoracic procedures.
Expanding in rural areas
Making sure people all across the UHS service area have access to the best heart care has long been a goal of the institute.
To accomplish this, UHS has expanded the heart services available at UHS Cardiology Norwich, UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital and UHS Delaware Valley Hospital. Cardiologists at these locations stay connected to their partners in Binghamton, creating a continuum of care for their patients. And now, UHS Sidney is also part of that network.
James O’Brien, MD, FACC, cardiologist at UHS Cardiology Norwich has seen firsthand how important this extended care can be. “For the people who frequent the Sidney clinic, this now provides significantly more access to potentially life-saving health care,” says Dr. O’Brien. “No longer do people have to drive two hours round-trip in order to have their heart looked at.”
Ongoing hospital renovations at UHS Chenango Memorial are creating a new space for cardiopulmonary services, with an anticipated mid-year move into the new space. “It includes a cardiac rehab center, so patients will be able to get state-of-the-art cardiac rehab right here, without having to travel out of town daily or weekly,” says Dr. O’Brien.
At UHS Delaware Valley, Keyoor Patel, DO, cardiologist with the UHS Heart & Vascular Institute, sees patients weekly and serves as the clinical director of UHS Delaware Valley’s Cardiopulmonary Department and its certified Cardiac/Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.
More services than ever
Today, the surgeons and their support staff members conduct a wide range of cardiac and thoracic procedures, including the latest offerings in heart and chest surgery.
Many procedures are available minimally invasively, reducing pain and recovery time; a video-assisted option gives surgeons an enhanced view of the surgical field without the need for a larger incision. UHS cardiothoracic surgeons treat nearly 300 patients per year.
In 2015, UHS started a comprehensive catheter based Structural Heart Program adding procedures like transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.
This option, performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab’s operating room, enables conversion to an open surgical procedure if needed. TAVR deploys a tissue valve inside the damaged valve via a catheter. Once in place, the new valve’s artificial external metal structure is expanded to resolve the stenosis, or closing, of the valve.
According to Dr. Rehman, the program’s biggest success can be found in the clinical outcomes.
“Our TAVR program has had no mortalities for three years, which is remarkable. Our PCI program has consistently performed at or better than the New York State average for more than 20 years. In 2018, we had zero mortalities for our procedures which is a testament to the skill and dedication of UHS heart teams,” he said.
As UHS begins its next 30 years in cardiothoracic surgery, surgeons look forward to the introduction of the MitraClip procedure in 2020.
Designed for patients experiencing mitral regurgitation, a backflow of blood through the mitral valve, the procedure represents a new option for patients who aren’t candidates for mitral valve surgery.
The dime-sized device resembles the fingertip of a glove, and is inserted to help the valve close more fully. This resolves many of the symptoms related to mitral regurgitation, including fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, fluid retention and more.
“On the occasion of this milestone anniversary, UHS is celebrating its cardiac surgery program and a cardiac care program as a whole including the high-quality cardiology and electrophysiology services offered,” Ms. Pilarchik said.
She noted: “We’re committed to seeing patients with new cardiac concerns right away in our acute care clinic, and have a heart failure program with dedicated providers on staff. Our goal is to offer a full range of services for cardiology and cardiothoracic surgical needs.”
For more information about the UHS Heart & Vascular Institute, visit www.nyuhs.org/care-treatment/cardiothoracic-surgery/.
UHS is a locally owned, not-for-profit hospital and healthcare system serving Greater Binghamton and surrounding counties. Founded in 1981, UHS provides a full range of medical, surgical, rehabilitative and long-term care services throughout New York’s Southern Tier.
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