Four year’s worth of construction and multiple operational phases ended Monday when Mercy fully opened Mercy Heart Hospital Springfield. The final phase of the construction project ended with all-new surgical and procedural rooms.
The new facility allows Mercy’s cardiovascular patients to obtain all of their care in one location, complete with valet parking.
“This is about more than the sign on the building,” Dr. Jessica Birchem, Mercy cardiologist, said in a statement. “While the facility is patient-friendly and beautiful, it’s really the care you’re getting inside that matters. We offer the most comprehensive, advanced heart care in the area. And, with the entire team concentrated in one area, the teamwork is enhanced. We’re able to quickly consult on the best care for our patients.”
Mercy held a private ribbon cutting and blessing for the center because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Services in the new Heart Hospital Springfield include:
ECMO – Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation
Used recently with severely ill COVID-19-positive patients, ECMO enables the heart and lungs to rest by oxygenating blood outside the body. The care is intense and requires a dedicated nurse for each patient. It is not available at other area hospitals.
Cryoablation for Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, where the upper chambers of the heart don’t work in coordination with the lower chambers. It puts patients at increased risk for things like stroke and heart failure.
Mercy doctors have several methods to treat AF, but they’re the only providers in the area to offer cryoablation. In this procedure, they use a small tube, or catheter, to access the heart. Once the area causing the problem is reached, they inflate a balloon and freeze the troublesome tissue. For many patients, freezing the area is more precise and gets better results than other methods, which include using heat.
Laser Lead Extraction
Implanted devices, like pacemakers and defibrillators, have made a normal life possible for countless patients. Occasionally, however, the wires that connect the device to the heart, called a lead, may become encapsulated in scar tissue or get infected, and need to be removed.
Mercy is the only health system in the area that can do the extraction using lasers. Doctors make a small incision near the old device, sending a tiny tube into the targeted vein. The laser zaps the scar tissue, and doctors can then remove the lead. This method is faster, more precise and results in a faster recovery for patients.
Chronic Total Occlusion
A chronic total occlusion is a complete blockage of one or more of the heart arteries. In the past, patients were told there was nothing that could be done, but Mercy doctors now have the advanced tools to get the blood flowing again. Even better, the procedure is minimally invasive and uses small catheters to access the heart.
One catheter is very tiny and can break through blockages; the other can slip around blockages by going between the layers of an artery. Once around the blocked area, doctors use a new type of balloon to get the blood flowing. Improved circulation means the heart muscle can get stronger and abnormal rhythm problems can stabilize.
Removing Partial Blockages
Even partial calcified blockages are a problem, and Mercy’s heart and vascular team has an array of tools to fit patients’ individual needs. Accessing the blockages through a catheter in the arm, doctors can break it up using a laser or a tiny diamond-tip drill. They can also deploy a balloon during a procedure called angioplasty to break through the blockage.
Complex Stenting Procedures
With new imaging equipment at Mercy Heart Hospital Springfield, doctors can now see inside a catheterized artery while they’re working on it. It’s a game changer for placing stents, which are tiny devices that hold an artery open after a blockage is removed. The imaging equipment enables doctors to determine the vessel size, optimize the stent expansion and place it precisely for the best patient outcomes.
“This is truly state-of-the-art equipment,” said Dr. Prasad Gunasekaran, Mercy interventional cardiologist. “Very few centers – even those in large cities – have this technology.”
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
The cardiology team at Mercy Springfield was the first to bring this procedure to the area, putting an end to open heart surgery for most patients with aortic stenosis – a heart valve that has narrowed due to excessive calcium buildup. Valves can now be replaced using small catheters, and patients usually go home the next day.
The Food and Drug Administration first approved the procedure for patients who were too ill to survive open heart surgery. Upon seeing remarkable results, with patients feeling better right after surgery, Mercy doctors participated in the clinical trials to expand the procedure to include most patients. In the past eight years, the team has completed more than 800 TAVR procedures.
Repairing Septal Defects (Holes in the Heart)
Whether a birth defect or something that develops over time, Mercy’s heart team has more than a decade of experience in repairing several types of holes in the heart. Patients don’t have to endure open heart surgery, as doctors use a catheter through the groin to perform the procedures.
When it doesn’t work correctly, the mitral valve on the left side of the heart can cause blood to flow in the wrong direction, flooding the lungs and causing congestive heart failure. With the MitraClip procedure, doctors can fix the leaky valve through a tiny incision in the patient’s groin. Patients feel the difference immediately, and typically go home the next day. Mercy Heart Hospital Springfield has the most experience with the procedure, as well as the most up-to-date equipment to perform it.
Patients who have an irregular heartbeat that isn’t due to a valve problem are often told they will need to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to prevent clots. Even with medication, they’re at greater risk of stroke, because a clot can form, break free and cut off blood supply to the brain.
Now, doctors at Mercy can insert a small catheter in the patient’s groin and actually close off the problem area of the heart with the WATCHMAN implant. Patients can then stop taking their blood thinners with a significantly reduced risk of stroke.
Patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) can experience fluid buildup, which may cause them to gain weight, feel short of breath and have swelling, especially in their legs, feet and ankles.
In the past, patients occasionally needed to be hospitalized to remove the fluid, because it can collect in the lungs and cause respiratory distress. Now, Mercy can intervene earlier, thanks to a remote monitoring device called the CardioMEMS™ HF System. The miniature, wireless monitoring sensor is implanted in the pulmonary artery during an outpatient procedure. It measures pulmonary artery pressure – an early indicator of worsening heart failure – to detect fluid buildup several days before a patient notices symptoms.
Patients with the CardioMEMS™ device sit or lay down on a special pillow every day, which transmits the patient’s pulmonary artery pressure to a monitoring system at Mercy. If there’s a problem, the patient’s heart team follows up to offer treatment advice, like increasing the use of medication to reduce fluid buildup.
HeartFlow FFR CT
Some patients are avoiding invasive heart tests altogether, thanks to a diagnostic advancement available at Mercy, called HeartFlow. “Standard cardiac CT scans show us how much the heart arteries have narrowed,” explained Dr. Anoop Parameswaran, Mercy cardiologist. “It doesn’t show us if the narrowed artery is reducing blood flow to the heart. To determine that, we used to always turn to an angiogram, which is an invasive procedure that sends dye into your arteries so we can see what’s going on.”
Instead, the HeartFlow Analysis uses the patient’s CT scan to create a computerized, 3D model of the heart. It determines if the narrowed artery is causing a reduction in blood flow, and whether doctors need to consider further treatment options, like medications, diet changes, or procedures to clean out and stent the artery.
The new Heart Hospital will also not need referrals for most services. Appointments are being scheduled on the Mercy website.