Danbury Hospital Earns Chest Pain Center with PCI Accreditation

New Milford Hospital
Hal Wasserman, M.D., Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, Danbury Hospital

The Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center at Danbury Hospital has earned a full three-year Chest Pain Center with PCI accreditation, the highest level of accreditation, from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC). The PCI designation means that the hospital uses a specialized treatment called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) as the primary treatment for acute heart attacks. This ensures that patients experiencing an acute heart attack receive rapid treatment in the cardiac catheterization laboratory to minimize damage to the heart muscle.

Hospitals awarded this designation have Primary PCI available to patients who may be experiencing a heart attack. Hospital-based and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) teams are focused on the "door to balloon" time, the period from when a patient enters an emergency room to the time treatment begins to unclog the blocked arteries, minimizing heart damage and improving survival. EMS teams routinely initiate "heart attack alerts" in the field to help hospital teams prepare for a patient's arrival at Danbury Hospital for advanced cardiac services. In addition to electronic transmission of electrocardiograms performed "in the field," EMS and first responders make every moment count as they transport the patient to the hospital.

Fortunately, that's what happened to 45-year-old Kenneth Priest of Danbury who experienced a heart attack on July 10, 2015. "I had just started using the weed trimmer in my garden. After using it for a few minutes, it ran out of gas so I walked back into the garage when suddenly I felt like I was having a serious case of indigestion," said Priest. "I decided to go inside the house and get something cold to drink, but that didn't make me feel any better, so I went and took a shower where I started feeling chest pains. It felt like someone was kneeling on my chest," noted Priest. "When I got out of the shower I asked my spouse Eric to drive me to the emergency room, but he took one good look at me and immediately called 9-1-1."

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with 600,000 deaths annually. More than 700,000 people experience heart attacks each year and more than five million Americans visit hospitals each year with chest pain. SCPC's goal is to significantly reduce the mortality rate of these patients by teaching the public to recognize and react to the early symptoms of a possible heart attack, reduce the time that it takes to receive treatment, and increase the accuracy and effectiveness of treatment.

An Accredited Chest Pain Center's evidence-based, protocol-driven and systematic approach to cardiac patient care allows clinicians to reduce time to treatment during the critical early stages of a heart attack. Chest pain centers also better monitor patients when it is not yet clear whether or not a patient is having a heart related event. Such monitoring ensures patients are neither sent home too early nor needlessly admitted.

SCPC's CPC accreditation process ensures that hospitals meet or exceed a wide set of stringent criteria and undergo a comprehensive onsite review by a team of specialists. Hospitals that received SCPC CPC Accreditation status have achieved a higher level of expertise in dealing with patients who arrive with symptoms of a chest pain. They emphasize the importance of standardized diagnostic and treatment programs that provide more efficient and effective evaluation as well as more appropriate and rapid treatment of patients with chest pain and other heart attack symptoms.

"Luckily, I arrived at the Danbury Hospital Emergency Department by ambulance where it took about 45 minutes from my heart attack diagnosis to treatment in the cardiac catheterization laboratory," said Priest.

In the cardiac catheterization laboratory, interventional cardiologist Dr. Marc Krichavsky determined that one of Priest's heart arteries was 100 percent blocked. "He needed to undergo an angioplasty with stent procedure to unclog the blocked artery," noted Dr. Krichavsky. While preparing for the procedure, Priest told Dr. Krichavsky having a blocked artery diagnosis took him by surprise because his cholesterol levels were good. However, he did have a major risk factor; he was a smoker.

"One of the doctors explained what smoking actually does to walls of the arteries," said Priest. "He said the arteries are lined with what is the equivalent of non-stick cookware so, when you smoke, that non-stick coating starts to flake off forming plaque on the arteries walls."

"When it comes to heart attacks, time is muscle, so awareness of the important signs and symptoms is essential so patients and family members know when to activate 9-1-1 and get to the hospital quickly. Using the 9-1-1 system is a safer way to get to the hospital. It also allows first responders to begin lifesaving treatment immediately and alert the emergency cardiovascular teams at the Hospital with a diagnostic electrocardiogram and prepare accordingly. The 9-1-1 system is designed to save lives and we can then treat patients earlier during the window of time when the heart muscle can be preserved," said Dr. Hal Wasserman, director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Danbury Hospital.

By achieving SCPC's Chest Pain Center with PCI Accreditation status, Danbury Hospital's Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center demonstrated expertise in the following areas:

  • Integrating the emergency department with the local emergency medical system
  • Assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients quickly
  • Effectively treating patients who are lower risk heart attack but have other causes of chest pain
  • Continually seeking to improve processes and procedures
  • Ensuring the competence and training of Accredited Chest Pain Center personnel
  • Having a functional design that promotes optimal patient care
  • Supporting community outreach programs that educate the public to promptly seek medical care if they display symptoms of a possible heart attack.

"You never know if or when you'll have a heart attack," said Priest. "But, if you do, I can't think of a better place to get treatment."

About the Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center

The Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center at Danbury Hospital offers life-saving cardiovascular care. Our highly trained specialists and skilled clinical teams are supported by the most advanced technology, which allows them to rapidly diagnose and effectively treat cardiac and vascular diseases. The Center is Chest Pain accredited and has an experienced team of doctors, nurses, and technicians recruited from the finest academic medical centers available 24/7 for emergency treatment of heart attacks. Our Vascular Surgery Service is Vein Center accredited, an award shared by less than 50 vein centers nationwide. Our patients experience the best service and outcomes in the region while staying close to home because all the resources they need are right here.

At the Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center, patients have access to a range of services, including disease prevention, diagnostic testing, interventional cardiology, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) endovascular stenting, electrophysiology and minimally invasive and open cardiac and minimally invasive open heart and vascular surgery. Additional resources include the Marcus Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, the Women's Cardiac Program, clinical research trials, and support services and programs. The Center is also a regional training facility for interns, residents and cardiovascular disease fellows.

Western Connecticut Health Network

Western Connecticut Health Network is the region's premier, patient-centered health care organization serving residents of Western Connecticut and adjacent New York. With this recent affiliation, the organization is now anchored by three nationally recognized hospitals, Danbury Hospital, New Milford Hospital and Norwalk Hospital, as well as their affiliated organizations. In addition to the three hospitals, the continuum of care offered includes numerous medical practices and sub-specialties across the region, home health care services, a nationally renowned biomedical research institute, the Western Connecticut Health Network Foundation, the Norwalk Hospital Foundation and other affiliates. For more information, visit TheNewWCHN.org. Share your comments with us at Facebook.com/DanburyHospital; Facebook.com/NewMilfordHospital and/or Facebook.com/NorwalkHospital.

About the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care

The Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC) is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on transforming cardiovascular care by assisting facilities in their effort to create cardiovascular centers of excellence that deliver quality, cost and patient satisfaction. As the only cross-specialty organization, SCPC provides the support needed for individual hospitals and hospital systems to effectively reduce variations of care and bridge existing gaps in treatment by providing the tools, education and support necessary to improve patient outcomes.