Lexington Medical Center Opens First Heart Surgery Suite

By Dana W. Todd
February 29, 2012

At the end of this month, Lexington Medical Center will provide services it has never been allowed to offer until now – open heart surgery and elective angioplasty – necessary to save the lives of Lexington County residents. “We can offer full cardiac treatment, from beginning to end,” says Dr. Jeffrey Travis, who is the first heart surgeon hired by Lexington Medical Center. 

Dr. Travis joined the hospital at the beginning of this year to build the new cardiovascular surgical program, which will encompass one operating suite at the hospital. He started by establishing an office, Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery, where he sees and treats cardiac patients with services such as heart catheterizations, diagnostic testing and pacemaker implantation. “We will now be able to provide comprehensive care; whatever the need, all modalities are in place,” Travis says. 

Travis is a South Carolina native who completed his residency at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. He joins Lexington Cardiovascular Surgery from Columbus Cardiovascular Surgery in Georgia. 

Travis is busy assembling a team to treat patients. He is adding a second heart surgeon, a cardiac anesthesiologist, a perfusionist to run the heart-lung machine during bypass procedures, and specialized cardiac nurses in anticipation of treating the first wave of patients this spring. Care includes post-surgery cardiac and pulmonary monitoring by a team specially trained in cardiac issues, and Travis will be coordinating the specialized services needed by cardiac patients with the hospital’s existing Intensive Care Unit. 

CEO Mike Biediger believes there is a need for complete cardiac care at the hospital. “We treat 100,000 patients per year in our emergency room and an additional 135,000 patients in our six urgent care centers, a large percentage of whom have cardiac needs,” he says about the state’s second busiest ER. “We mainly needed to improve the timeliness of care by having the ability to wheel patients who need further cardiac attention down the hall instead of to an ambulance or helicopter for transportation to another facility.” 

“Any delay in treatment results in poor outcomes for patients having heart attacks,” concurs Travis. “Time is [heart] muscle. Timeliness in treatment is critical to better patient outcomes. There’s no time for transfers to other facilities.” 

Lexington Medical Center has performed cardiac catheterizations since 2002 but fought an arduous decade-long battle to begin offering cardiac surgical services. After eventual coordination and compromise with the two other local hospital systems – Providence Hospital and Palmetto Health – the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) approved Lexington Medical’s certificate of need last summer. Lexington Medical Center agreed to pay Providence $15 million over three years to de-license one of Providence’s heart surgery suites and dropped its adversarial stance against Palmetto Health opening the new Parkridge Hospital on the northwest side of town in order to gain the surgical center it wanted. 

“I applaud the 10-year journey and the fact that Lexington Medical Center didn’t stop when initially rebuffed,” says Travis. “It’s that important for the residents of our community.” 

According to SCDHEC’s Office of Research and Statistics, 331 people from Lexington County needed open heart surgery in 2008. And Lexington County is growing – 21.5 percent from 2000 to 2010 – making the potential need even greater. SCDHEC reports more than 1,100 people in Lexington County needed angioplasty procedures in 2008, the latest year of reported figures. Top that with the fact that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America, and you get the picture why Lexington Medical Center believes the need is great for full cardiac care. 

To fulfill current and pending cardiac needs, Lexington Medical Center partnered with Duke Medicine’s internationally recognized heart program. The Duke Heart Center is one of the world’s leading cardiovascular clinical research programs and is listed as number seven in U.S. heart hospitals by U.S. News and World Report. Duke is assisting Travis with recruiting staff, designing the open heart surgery operating room and developing services. The partnership enables Lexington Medical to obtain the latest research and advances in cardiovascular care. 

“We already have high patient satisfaction,” says Biediger. “We feel a tremendous number of Lexington County residents choose to come here as their hospital. We want to continue to provide the best program so they will choose to be here.” 

“Our heart services add to the other quality of care services we are already known for,” says Lexington Medical Center’s director of marketing and public relations, Mark Shelley. “We are adding complete cardiac care, but nothing else is changing.” With an eye to the future, Travis says he is already anticipating adding new technology to the heart surgery practice within 12 to 18 months of opening the doors. Travis anticipates being the first center in the state to add percutaneous aortic valve replacements to its list of services, a less invasive procedure to treat aortic stenosis that was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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