For good reason, the name of Great Plains Health heart treatment center has been changed to the Great Plains Health Heart Institute.

Great Plains Health has spent $5 million on cardiovascular services in just the past two years, adding a second operating laboratory and building a state-of-the-art cardiac care center.

GPH has added 22 heart procedures since 2011.

Their newly named Heart Health Institute is western Nebraska’s only all-inclusive heart care center. New equipment at the institute accommodates procedures that aren’t able to be done anywhere else in the state.

“We wanted a name that reflects that growth and innovation (in cardiovascular services and procedures),” chief operating officer Ivan Mitchell said.

The Great Plains Health system employs five cardiologists and four other medical specialists in the field. Overall, GPH has about 1,100 doctors, nurses and other staff who provide outreach to 15 communities in Nebraska, eastern Colorado and northern Kansas.

In addition to the second cath lab now in operation, all new equipment has been installed in both labs, making access to care and innovation a high priority, Mitchell said.

New technology such as Shockwave IVL, FlowTriever and and ClotTriever break up calcium deposits in blood vessels and safely extract blood clots. GPH is the first heart treatment center in Nebraska with that equipment.

In addition to offering the latest technology in heart treatment, the Hearth Health Institute provides care rapidly. GPH’s average time was 57 minutes in 2018 from the time a patient came through the doors to the time a balloon was inserted, far faster than the national benchmark of 90 minutes.

The shorter that time is, the more likely a patient is to survive and have a good quality of life after they do, Dr. Richard Markiewicz said. Without adequate blood supply, the heart muscle quickly begins to deteriorate.

Since 1999, the likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease has fallen more than 38% in Lincoln County. This corresponds to the increase in medical technology and number of procedures performed at the Heart Health Institute and other medical services.

Five years or so ago, implanting a stent in a major artery was a state-of-the-art procedure in heart care. A stent is a tiny tube that can be inserted into a blocked passageway to keep it open. First, a balloon opens the blood vessel and restores the flow of blood in a procedure called angioplasty. The stent keeps the artery open.

Now, more than a dozen similar procedures can be performed at GPH, all without major surgery, not only on the heart, but all parts of the vascular system that might be damaged.

When a coronary artery (an artery feeding the heart muscle) is narrowed by a buildup of fatty deposits called plaque, it can reduce blood flow, the American Heart Association says. If blood flow is reduced to the heart muscle, chest pain can result. If a clot forms and completely blocks the blood flow to part of the heart muscle, a heart attack results.

Patients who have angioplasty and stents recover much faster than patients who have coronary artery bypass surgery. Bypass surgery is rarely performed — only if there are multiple blockages, Markiewicz said.


(Bulletin intern Sadie Fick contributed to this report.)