Our premier cardiac program is ready to help

HEART DISEASE IS STILL THE #1 CAUSE OF DEATH IN AMERICA That is why it is good to know that Grand Strand Regional Medical Center’s cardiac surgery program is ranked #1 in South Carolina and in the top 5 percent of all U.S. hospitals in 2010 by HealthGrades, the nation’s leading independent healthcare quality company.

Top-notch care close to home

Grand Strand Regional’s cardiac surgery program was the recipient of HealthGrades’ Cardiac Surgery Excellence Award in 2010 for the highest-possible ratings for coronary artery bypass surgery and valve replacement surgery.

Started in 1995, Grand Strand Regional’s program is the only cardiac surgery program in Horry and Georgetown counties. Today, more than 350 cardiac surgeries are performed each year by Brian McIntyre, MD, and Curtis Bryan, MD. In addition, the hospital has 12 cardiologists and two cardiac anesthesiologists on staff.

“The award is a tremendous honor,” says Dr. McIntyre, medical director of cardiothoracic surgery at Grand Strand Regional. “It shows that our patients can be confident they will receive the highest level of care for their heart problems close to home. They do not have to leave town for heart surgery.”

A team effort

Dr. McIntyre and Dr. Bryan, cardiothoracic surgeon and vice-chief of the medical staff, take a hands-on approach to running the department, in addition to performing surgical procedures. They credit the entire medical center staff with earning the HealthGrades designation. “It starts at the very top, where our administration has decided that cardiac services are a priority,” Dr. McIntyre says. “We have the highest quality personnel, including nursing staff, cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiac ICU staff, respiratory therapists— everything is designed to ensure that we deliver excellent care.”

“I believe that if we meet or exceed regional and national benchmarks, we are providing our community with a quality service in which they can have confidence,” says Dr. Bryan.

“It is wonderful,” adds Dr. McIntyre, “when all our hard work is acknowledged by an esteemed group such as HealthGrades.”

Valve replacement surgery on the rise

VALVE REPLACEMENT OR REPAIR IS BECOMING A MUCH MORE FREQUENT SURGERY, SAYS DR. MCINTYRE. The main reason: an aging population. “As people live longer, their risk of developing valve disease increases,” he says.

Your heart has four valves. Normally, these valves open to let blood flow through or out of your heart, and then shut to keep it from flowing backward. But sometimes they do not work properly. If a valve does not close tightly, blood can leak back through the valve in the wrong direction. When the valve does not open enough, it blocks blood flow.

Valve problems can be present at birth or caused by infections, heart attacks or heart disease. When treatments like medicine or other procedures do not work, surgeons need to repair or replace the valve.

“We offer everything from mitral valve repair or replacement to aortic valve replacement here at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center,” says Dr. Bryan. The average hospital stay after valve replacement or repair is three to five days. Patients can expect to return to driving in three weeks and return to part-time work in an office setting in four weeks.

Heart health is a family affair

HELEN AND JOEY JOHNSON SHARE MORE THAN MOST MOTHERS AND SONS. Recently, they both underwent triple bypass surgery by Dr. McIntyre at Grand Strand Regional Medical Center.

The Johnsons, both of Myrtle Beach, never suspected they were destined for such surgery. There was no family history of the disease, and neither had any symptoms. But when Joey, 39, went for a routine physical in December 2008—his first checkup in many years—an electrocardiogram revealed a problem that turned out to be a nearly complete blockage of his heart arteries.

“I could not believe this happened to me,” says Joey, manager of the North Myrtle Beach Starbucks. “I have been a vegetarian since my teens and I eat healthy. I am active and not overweight.” He does admit he was once a heavy smoker.

After his bypass surgery, Joey bugged his mother Helen, 62, also a former heavy smoker who had not seen a doctor in years, to get a checkup. It turned out that she, too, needed bypass surgery, which she had in July 2009. “I was bewildered and scared, but I was more concerned when Joey had his surgery,” she says. Spoken like a true mother.

Both Helen and Joey recommend the care they received at Grand Strand Regional. “Every one of my doctors and nurses was wonderful and made it a very comfortable experience,” says Joey. Although, he adds, he would rather not do it again.

Both are doing well now. And they are also encouraging Joey’s brother Tracy to see a doctor. “He is 42 and says he will go this summer,” says Helen. “If we learned anything through all of this, it is that you need to see a doctor on a regular basis. And never take your heart for granted.”

Be heart healthy: For more information about Grand Strand Regional's cardiac services, visit our cardiac services page.