Each year more than a million people in the United States have a coronary angioplasty, a procedure to open clogged arteries in the heart. Doctors use angioplasty to reduce chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart and to minimize damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack. Yet until recently, state regulations only permitted hospitals with open-heart surgery programs to provide this common procedure on a non-emergency basis. For Queens residents and patients in other locations, this resulted in barriers to ready access.
But in 2007, after successfully providing the procedure to emergency patients for several years, HHC's Elmhurst Hospital in Queens received state Department of Health approval to perform elective angioplasty procedures, one of only five community hospitals without open-heart surgery programs in New York State given permission to do so. One year later, the positive results for patients are becoming clear.
"We have helped 300 men and women with elective angioplasties and another 350 individuals who needed one on an emergency basis. Our rate of success is excellent, as we have achieved mortality results that are below the state average of 1%," according to Elmhurst's Executive Director Chris Constantino.
In 2003, Elmhurst was one of a handful of hospitals granted permission by the New York State Department of Health to perform emergency angioplasties as part of a pilot project to increase access. The state expanded emergency angioplasty criteria after studies indicated that patients suffering from heart attacks had better outcomes when emergency balloon angioplasty was performed as opposed to just administering clot-busting medications.
"Making elective angioplasty available in the borough of Queens has reduced the hardship for patients and we are expanding access to individuals who might have limited options or need to travel longer distances for this service," according to David Rubinstein, MD, Director of Cardiology at Elmhurst.
Elmhurst Hospital serves a large population at elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, particularly certain ethnic groups and the poor, many of whom might not have the option of this procedure if it was not available to them in Queens.
"South Asians are more likely than the general population to be diagnosed with early onset coronary artery disease," said Dr. Rubinstein. "We are not sure if it is due to genetics or diet, or a combination. We are reaching out to the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian communities offering education and to encourage them to get screened."
Elmhurst has started a pilot project for the South Asian community that offers rapid access to care, allowing patients to be evaluated, get laboratory tests and receive needed medications, all in one day. The program, known as the South Asian Outreach Project -- SOAP -- is available at little or no cost for low-income patients.
"Our top priority is always our patients and their access to health care. Being able to do this procedure is just another way we can serve the needs of our community," Constantino said.
HHC facilities throughout the city offer special heart healthy screenings and programs to educate communities about cardiovascular health, including tips on how to prevent or reduce the damage caused by heart disease, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure. City residents can receive treatment at our facilities for many types of cardiovascular disease, including diseases of the heart, stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, congenital heart defects, hardening of the arteries and circulatory system diseases. Preventive and comprehensive cardiac care including diagnostic screenings, stress tests, cardiac catheterization, surgery and other services are available in HHC hospitals throughout New York City.