Beaufort Memorial Hospital has received state approval to perform emergency cardiac interventions on patients suffering the most dangerous type of heart attacks, helping ensure better outcomes with more timely delivery of treatment.
"We're now able to offer ... care for an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI)," said Daniel Mock, Beaufort Memorial's senior director of cardiovascular and imaging services. "It will save lives."
STEMIs occur when there is a sudden blockage of one of the three coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. Without blood, the heart muscle will die. Percutaneous coronary intervention is the preferred emergency procedure for opening the occluded arteries.
In the past, BMH patients having a STEMI were given clot-busting medication and airlifted to hospitals in Charleston or Savannah approved to perform PCIs. But it wasn't always possible to get patients into the cath lab for the procedure within the 90-minute practice guidelines established by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
Beaufort Memorial Cochrane Heart Center began working with Duke Heart Network two years ago to meet the criteria required by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to perform the life-saving procedures in its own catheterization lab.
During a PCI, a catheter with a balloon at its tip is inserted into the blocked artery and then inflated to push away the clot and restore blood flow to the heart. After the balloon opens the blocked artery, a stent is placed in the area of the clot to stabilize the artery and prevent it from closing again.
"You have to act as expeditiously as possible to get the best outcome," said Dr. Harry Phillips, chief medical officer of Duke Network Services and associate director of the Duke Heart Center. "The longer it takes to clear the clot and restore blood flow, the greater the amount of damage to the heart muscle."
Establishing a STEMI program at BMH was a project that involved virtually every department from the Emergency Room to the Intensive Care Unit. More than a dozen cardiac cath lab team members received specialized training at Duke's cardiac cath lab.
In addition three Duke Heart Network nurses provided four days of specialized training to BMH emergency department and in-patient nurses who will care for patients following PCI procedures.
The Medical University of South Carolina, Roper St. Francis Healthcare and Hilton Head Hospital also supported BMH's application to obtain the required Certificate of Need from DHEC.
"In South Carolina, we have worked since 2008 to develop a regional referral care system to assure that heart attack patients get the treatment they need as soon as possible," said Dr. Rick Foster, senior vice president of quality and patient safety for the South Carolina Hospital Association. "With the designation of Beaufort as a treatment hospital, the regional system becomes even stronger, allowing emergency medical teams to get area residents to a treatment center even faster."