Plainview Hospital has opened a cardiac catheterization lab, which will deliver fast and potentially life-saving treatment to local patients suffering from heart attacks and other cardiac ailments. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Plainview Hospital has opened a $19 million facility that allows it to deliver fast and potentially life-saving treatment to local patients suffering from heart attacks and other cardiac ailments.

Northwell Health is due to announce Thursday that it has added a cardiac catheterization laboratory to the 204-bed hospital where doctors can quickly diagnose and treat heart problems with procedures such as angioplasty and stenting.

The new lab allows Plainview Hospital to treat heart attacks within minutes, instead of transferring patients by ambulance to another hospital, said Dr. Loukas Stefanos Boutis, director of the lab and chair of cardiology at Plainview. An electrophysiology lab that can diagnose and treat problems such as abnormal heart rhythms is due to open early next year, he said.

In the lab, which is open at all times with on-call staff who live nearby, “we can stop a heart attack from progressing and causing permanent heart damage,” Boutis said. Speedy treatment, he said, can allow a patient “to resume a normal life.” A stent also can prevent heart attacks in patients with partially blocked arteries. 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Plainview Hospital has opened a $19 million cardiac catheterization lab that allows it to deliver quick and potentially life-saving treatment for heart attacks and other cardiac ailment.
  • Several Long Island hospitals have added or upgraded such facilities in recent years.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., especially among seniors.

Among the lab's first patients in early June was Peter Accardi, 63, a retired English teacher who lives with his wife and three children in Hicksville. Accardi said he had been feeling short of breath, and when he had a heart scan done at the hospital, the scan showed a dangerous blockage in an artery. In the new facility, Boutis quickly put in a stent — a small tube — to open up the blood vessel. Accardi spent one night being observed in the intensive care unit before going home.

“This was a good place to be because it's only 10 minutes away from my house,” said Accardi, who has been getting treatment for health conditions at Plainview since 2012. “You're not dealing with traffic, you're not dealing with another hospital that doesn't know me. Here, they know me very well … so I felt very comfortable.”

Having such facilities in hospitals throughout a region — not only in the largest hospitals — can save lives, cardiologists say. When a patient has a heart attack, blood flow through an artery gets blocked, interrupting the heart’s oxygen supply and potentially causing part of the heart muscle to die if treatment is delayed, doctors say.

In such labs, doctors use real-time X-ray images to guide catheters that can help open blockages in coronary arteries or repair the heart in minimally invasive procedures that are less traumatic to the body than surgery. 

When a patient has a heart attack, it's best to get treatment within an hour, said Dr. Kirk N. Garratt, a past president of the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography & Interventions.

Hospitals aim to restore blood flow through the blocked artery within 90 minutes of a patient’s arrival, and having a catheterization lab in the building helps, Garratt said. 

“If it takes several hours to move the patient to a place where an angioplasty can be done, it may be too late to help that individual," Garratt said.

A growing trend in cardiac care

Plainview has joined a growing number of Long Island hospitals adding or upgrading such facilities. The latest equipment can provide highly detailed images using low doses of radiation, doctors said.

In addition to Plainview, Northwell also has cardiac catheterization labs at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, Huntington Hospital, Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson and Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

Catholic Health’s St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center opened a cardiac catheterization lab earlier this year at St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, and it has labs at Good Samaritan University Hospital in West Islip, Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre and St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in Smithtown. The Rockville Centre-based health care system has requested state approval to open a lab at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.

The labs allow doctors to perform three-dimensional imaging of blood vessels, said Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, chairman of cardiovascular services and chairman of cardiology at St. Francis and Catholic Health. “We can tell you, to a millimeter, the exact size and the length of stent that's necessary,” he said. “The bigger the stent is, the better chance the blockage doesn't come back.”

Stony Brook University Hospital is doing a $13.4 million upgrade of its labs. By early next year, the hospital will have six labs that can do catheterization and electrophysiology, said Dr. Robert T. Pyo, director of interventional cardiology and medical director of the structural heart program at Stony Brook Medicine. The health care system also has a catheterization facility at its Southampton hospital.

In such labs, doctors can do procedures that once would have required surgery, which makes treatment "less invasive and less painful,” Pyo said. 

In Oceanside, Mount Sinai Heart at Mount Sinai South Nassau this year completed a more than $3 million renovation that included new imaging equipment in two of its three catheterization labs. NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island in Mineola is upgrading its four cardiac catheterization labs.

The new and upgraded labs serve a region with an aging population. The most recent census data shows that 18.1% of Long Island’s population was 65 or older in 2020, up 3.8 percentage points from 2010. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and seniors are at especially high risk, researchers say.

“If we can bring emergency procedures with angioplasty and stenting 24/7 to local communities,” Shlofmitz said, “we're going to save [heart] muscle and save lives.”

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