GMC performs first PCI heart procedure in Gwinnett



LAWRENCEVILLE — Even with its Heart and Vascular Center months away from completion, Gwinnett Medical Center physicians performed a milestone procedure Tuesday.

An early-morning patient became the first ever to receive a coronary angioplasty and heart stent within Gwinnett County lines, as the hospital continues preparations for its move to its full-fledged heart center that is due to open in early 2012.

The procedure was completed by Dr. Louis Heller of Cardiovascular Group, P.C., the director of GMC’s cardiac catheterization lab.

“It means more for Gwinnett County than it means for me,” Heller said. “I’ve put in thousands of these before, but it’s nice to be able to do it here in this very large county.”

“In the past, we put the patient on an ambulance to the next county. Now we can save the expense and the hassle.”

Heller said that he and other physicians will now regularly schedule the surgeries — formally called a percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI — in GMC’s already-exisiting cardiac catheterization labs. Approval to provide the service prior to the Heart and Vascular Center’s completion was granted by the Georgia Department of Community Health, hospital officials said.

Heller estimated that 750 PCIs would be performed in the next year.

“This is a significant milestone in Gwinnett Medical Center’s history and a great advancement for the community we serve,” CEO Philip Wolfe said in a statement. “Before, cardiac patients needing interventional treatments had to leave Gwinnett. Now, they are able to receive this advanced service here in our community.”

“This moves us one major step closer to offering the complete array of advanced cardiovascular care right here in Gwinnett.”

Construction crews broke ground on the 40,000-square foot addition to the west side of the GMC-Lawrenceville campus in June, with construction scheduled to take about 18 months.

Upon completion, Gwinnett will no longer be the nation’s largest county without an open-heart facility. The center will be staffed by Cardiovascular Group and Gwinnett Consultants in Cardiology.

Monday’s first PCI procedure marked another milestone in bringing full cardiac care to Gwinnett.

“The patient came through with flying colors,” Heller said, “and I know that many more Gwinnett residents will come to recognize that the best cardiac care in the region is available here in their own backyard.”