When a heart attack strikes, minutes matter. “The sooner a heart attack victim gets a clogged artery opened up, the better the outcome,” says Dr. Robert Kopitsky, the medical director of the cardiac catheterization lab at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. “In addition to surviving the attack, there is less damage and risk of future complications, meaning better outcomes down the road.” Ninety minutes is the most widely accepted time frame, he notes, but faster is better. “We do even better than that. Our goal is to get them in and have the artery opened up in less than 60 minutes, and we hit that target about 100 percent of the time.”
Missouri Baptist has partnered with rural hospitals, as well as medical helicopter and ambulance services, to form Heart LifeLine Alliance, created to deliver the same level of care to people who do not live near a major medical center, Kopitsky notes. “The Alliance enables patients having a heart attack to be transported via helicopter to our center, and then straight to the cardiac cath lab,” he explains. “So we can help these heart attack victims as fast as humanly possible.”
Opening a clogged artery involves a coronary intervention, Kopitsky explains, a procedure that inserts a coronary stent into a narrowed or weakened coronary artery. The intervention process (sometimes referred to as angioplasty) is very effective. “The success rate is about 95 to 99 percent, as long as you have an experienced team with an experienced cardiologist,” he says.
In 2009 and 2010, Missouri Baptist was named the No. 1 heart hospital for cardiac services in Missouri by HealthGrades, an independent healthcare ratings organization. “They rate hospitals based on volumes and outcomes, and our hospital has received a five-star rating for treatment of heart attacks for eight years in a row,” Kopitsky notes.
More than 5 million people in the United States suffer from an abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, and Kopitsky says the Heart Center at Missouri Baptist is especially well-prepared to treat this condition, with a comprehensive range of options that includes robotic technology called stereotaxis robotic ablation. “It’s essentially magnetic-based, a three-dimensional method of mapping the electrical conducting system of the heart, so it facilitates extremely complex procedures. There are only a few centers in the country that have this technology available to their patients.”
Whether it’s a minimally invasive catheter ablation or open heart surgery, Kopitsky emphasizes that the best outcomes depend on a patient’s choices. “Lifestyle modification is critically important! If a patient takes care of themselves and takes their medications as prescribed, then the outlook is extremely good. But if they just return to old bad habits like cigarette smoking, a poor diet or being sedentary, then they are at risk for another heart attack.” Support groups can be useful in the healing process, he adds. “Mended Hearts is a program run by our volunteers who have had open heart surgery. They invite guest speakers and offer patients a chance to share their experiences.”
With a recognized history of success, a team of specially trained professionals and the latest technology, Kopitsky believes “Missouri Baptist is the best-kept secret in the area where heart care is concerned.”