Consolidated Heart Surgery Program Opens at Alegent Health
Release Date: 01/14/2009

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Physician-led consolidation is driven by research pointing to patient outcomes


OMAHA, Neb. – Two strong cardiovascular surgery programs at Alegent Health have pulled together to form one consolidated heart surgery program at Bergan Mercy Medical Center. This exceptional program has assembled heart experts who have 180 combined years of experience in performing open-heart surgeries. This depth of experience is critical as the healthcare industry sees the number of open-heart surgeries decrease.

Studies show that the higher number of surgeries that a physician performs, the better the outcomes and lower the mortality rates for patients. One such study, released by Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, points out that higher provider volume is associated with lower risk of death for both low-risk and moderate-to-high-risk patients. Healthcare quality analysts with The LeapFrog Group concur, reporting that “high-volume surgeons often have markedly lower mortality rates than surgeons who perform those procedures infrequently.”

The Alegent Health Podcast Episode #11
Heart & Vascular Institute


The consolidated program at Bergan Mercy will offer patients the most experienced cardiovascular and thoracic surgeons in the region working hand-in-hand with the area’s premier cardiologists.

“We brought together a team of cardiologists, vascular and cardiac surgeons, hospital administrators and other healthcare professionals and really thought through the whole process,” said Jeffrey Carstens, M.D., cardiologist and the executive medical director of the newly formed Heart & Vascular Institute.

Thomas Langdon, M.D., cardiovascular surgeon and surgical director of the Heart & Vascular Institute, added that “collaboration is clearly the key word in being able to put together the two programs into one world-class program at a single campus. The clear benefit of this move is for our patients, that they receive consistent and uniform care with best practices being performed at a single institution.”

Driving physicians, the focus throughout the consolidation process was the patient. They were joined by nurses, administrators and other healthcare experts who worked to create an environment where patients would receive the best care from the best team. “The Alegent Health Consolidated Heart Surgery Program has taken the best learnings, skills and experiences from the open-heart programs at Immanuel Medical Center and Bergan Mercy Medical Center and built upon those successes to take us to the next level,” said John May, vice president of cardiovascular services for Alegent Health. Together, the new program and its staff will take Alegent Health and its patients into the future.

Kelly Clark of Council Bluffs experienced the consolidated program first hand when he underwent aortic valve replacement and bypass surgery three weeks ago. It wasn’t the first time Clark has undergone open heart surgery. He went through bypass surgery 13 years ago – he describes the difference between his experience then and now as “night and day.” “Whatever they did – it really worked,” Clark said. ”I had great care. When I went in, I could only walk six feet before stopping to catch my breath. Now I don’t have to stop.”

Construction on a cardiovascular wing continues at Bergan Mercy Medical Center, which has already yielded a dedicated cardiac patient room floor and plans for four additional operating rooms.

Positive Patient Experiences

The consolidation will also provide the region with leading-edge technology that will further enhance Alegent Health’s patient-centered care.

  • Universal beds – During pre- and post-surgery, patients stay in one room, where the appropriate level of care is brought to them instead of having them moved to different locations during their recovery. This allows medical staff to provide patient-centered care and develop a bond with the patient and family for a better overall experience. The design of the room can accommodate all care needs and still provide caregiver access to the patient as well as a degree of comfort and privacy to the patient and family.
  • Nurse navigators – These clinical experts help patients and their families navigate through the healthcare system before, during and after a procedure. Acting as an advocate for the patient, this nurse can assist in the need for specialty services, educational activities and outreach groups.
  • Heart & Vascular Institute – the consolidated heart surgery program is one component of the Heart & Vascular Institute, which encompasses all cardiovascular care across the Alegent Health system.


All five Alegent Health hospitals in the Omaha metropolitan area will continue to treat heart patients in their clinics, cardiac care units, emergency rooms and catheterization labs. All of the hospitals are accredited chest pain centers and have full service cath labs with experienced cardiologists and emergency room doctors who recognize cardiac situations immediately.

Quality Counts
The national goal is to try to have at least half of your cardiac cases treated in less than 90 minutes. Alegent Health hospitals’ average “door to balloon time” is 63 minutes. The sooner a heart attack can be stopped in the cath lab, the less damage to the heart muscle. But if damage occurs and open-heart surgery is necessary, patients will be transferred to Bergan Mercy where they will find the experience, skill and compassion they need to get them back on their feet.

“With this consolidation, we will be able to offer newer and more-advanced procedures to our patients,” Carstens said. To patients like Kelly Clark – that is what the future is all about.

Alegent Health
Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with nine acute care hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,300 physicians on its medical staff and roughly 9,000 employees. Alegent Health is making healthcare better with an exceptional commitment to quality and by providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person consistent with its faith-based mission. Alegent Health continues the health ministry begun by its sponsors, Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems, more than a hundred years ago. At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation and behavioral health. Alegent Health is online at www.alegent.com .