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Expanding rural health care: Pacemaker procedures now available at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital

GREENSBORO, Ga. – May 3, 2019 – A pacemaker can be a lifesaver for people with dangerously slow heart rates. Now, pacemaker implantation and follow-up is available at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Greensboro in partnership with cardiologist John Layher, MD, of Oconee Heart and Vascular Center.

Members of the St. Mary’s Good Samaritan OR team celebrate with Dr. John Layher after the hospital’s first pacemaker implantation. From left to right: Sheila Hull, Lisa Byrd, Camille Scoggins, Diane Bracewell, Dr. Layher, and Marie Wells. Not pictured: Laura Larrieu

“This is a great day for our entire community,” said Tanya Adcock, President of Good Samaritan Hospital. “Patients can now receive life-changing pacemaker implantation and follow-up care right here, rather than having to travel an hour or more to a hospital in Athens, Atlanta or Augusta.”

“It’s extremely rare for a hospital in a rural community to be able to provide a service like this,” said Brittainy Horne, St. Mary’s Vice President of Strategy and Ambulatory Services. “We have made it possible through a partnership between St. Mary’s Medical Group and Good Samaritan Hospital. That partnership has brought Dr. Layher to Greene County full-time, and equipped the hospital and trained the staff for this major new service line.”

About pacemakers

A pacemaker is a device that is used to treat patients with abnormally slow heart rates. Slow heart rates can cause problems that range from uncomfortable to dangerous. Symptoms include fainting, fatigue, shortness of breath, and confusion. Pacemakers are often used to help people who have heart damage from a past heart attack improve their quality of life.

An implantable pacemaker, which includes an internal computer and miniature battery, is tucked into a pouch just under the skin on the side of the chest. Tiny wires or, in some cases, “leadless” transmitters, carry information about the heart’s activity to the pacemaker and electrical signals from the pacemaker back to the heart. The unit sends electrical pulses to stimulate the heart when the heart rate becomes too slow.

The unit also records its activity and can transmit those records wirelessly so that Dr. Layher can evaluate how well the pacemaker is performing. He can then use a wireless system to adjust the pacemaker’s settings so that it continues to meet the patient’s needs as their condition changes.

Intensive preparation. Successful outcome

“Our first case was a success that provided substantial benefit to the patient,” said Kimberly Tyler, director of nursing. “Our patient went from having a sustained heartrate of only 20-30 beats per minute to 70-80 beats per minute.”

Tyler noted that preparation and training has been intensive.

“Preliminary training involved members of our Operating Room going to St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens to shadow pacemaker cases there,” she said. “Dr. Layher played a key role in continued training as we prepared the teams in our Operating Room and Medical/Surgical Unit who would provide care during and after the procedure. Diane Bracewell, OR Nurse, served as a team lead to make sure all other staff members were comfortable with the work flow and equipment that would be utilized. A great team effort from all involved.”

Dr. Layher provides outpatient care and consultations in the Oconee Heart & Vascular Center office at 1110 Commerce Drive, Suite 108, located off Ga. 44 just a few miles from Good Samaritan Hospital. For information, please visit www.oconeeheart.com. For new patient appointments, please call 706.389.3440. As part of St. Mary’s Medical Group, OHVC accepts most major insurance plans and Medicare.

In addition to pacemaker implantation, St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital offers a wide range of cardiac services, including stress testing, nuclear medicine, echocardiography, high-speed CT imaging, EKG, Holter monitoring, inpatient cardiac consultations with Dr. Layher or, at night, via telemedicine, and evaluation and treatment of arrhythmia, coronary artery disease, heart failure and vascular heart disease. For information about cardiology services at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital, click here.

For information about cardiology services at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, click here.

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