Marion County Fire Rescue

Marion County Fire Rescue firefigher/paramedics Walle Milligan, left, and Mark Boymer, center, wheel out a stretcher cleaned and ready for their next call as they and College of Central Florida paramedic student Kable Hoben leave The Villages Regional Hospital Emergency Department.

Rapid intervention with CPR and paramedic emergency medicine where the patient collaspes is vital, but the journey is only beginning when a sudden cardiac arrest patient is inbound to the hospital.

Locally, emergency department physicians start patient care before they see them. From outside the hospital, EMS medics can send EKG readings of the heart, vital signs and other relevant information to the physicians.

“We already know a lot about the patient before they arrive,” said Alex Chang, Central Florida Health’s vice president of support services.

Central Florida Health’s two-hospital system of The Villages Regional Hospital and Leesburg Regional Medical Center is well versed in providing advanced care for cardiac patients, including those in arrest or recently revived from an episode.

“Our (cardiac care) is the largest service line,” Chang said. “That’s the nature of population line.”

The Villages Regional Hospital is the primary hospital for nation’s highest median age, which is the age group most at-risk for cardiovascular diseases.

The hospitals collective resumé to handle that demand is well documented.

Both facilities carry American College of Cardiology’s Accredited Chest Pain Center with PCI and Resuscitation designation, meaning they pass a stringent checklist of training, staffing and equipment to handle cardiac emergencies.

Both facilities can provide therapeutic hypothermia following a cardiac arrest, if needed, to help lower body temperatures and deter brain damage.

Cardiac arrests and heart attacks are not one in the same, but sometimes a heart attack, caused by vessel blockage, can trigger an arrest.

Industry standards typically desire a 90-minute “door-to-balloon” time. That means an angioplasty to correct heart blockage is taking place in that time span from arrival at the hospital to when a “balloon” is inflated to push or clear plaque building up in heart vessels and place a stent to form a shell to help keep the vessel open for essential blood flow. Locally, it takes less time.

“We’re consistently in the 60-to 70-minute range,” Chang said. “A lot of time we’ll do that in 45 minutes.”

LRMC is equipped with three catheterization labs. The Villages has two “cath labs,” performing more than 5,000 angioplasties a year.

If advanced intervention is needed, LRMC has volumes of experience, currently ranking as fourth highest in the state for number of open-heart surgeries performed, according to Chang. The operating suites at LMRC handled 700 such cases in the last year for heart patients of both hospitals, he said.

“We are blessed to have a strong number of cardiologists and (cardiothoracic) surgeons available to us,” Chang said.

And the hospitals are always looking to improve. Hosting an annual Heart-2-Heart cardiovascular symposium for nurses, students and other caregivers, the two-day accredited educational program led by Dr. Srinivas Attanti and high-profile guest speakers provides opportunities to learn about the newest techniques, Chang said.

Overall, hospital leaders believe they’re providing cardiac care that are “superior to the benchmark,” according to Chang.

“I like to think we have pretty strong indicators,” he said of a solid performance.

Curt Hills is a managing editor with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5287, or curt.hills@thevillagesmedia.com.