You never know how inaccurate and misleading the news can be until it points the finger right at you.

As my buddy Joe Madison would say, let me put it where the goats can get it!!

This email is in response to today’s Atlanta Business Chronicle article on Piedmont Healthcare’s expansion plans


Ms. Hensley:

The article above needs to be corrected. The data you report from the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) is misleading and inaccurate.


Your article refers to “open heart surgery” generically. This term is used to describe all procedures on or inside the heart. In fact, the most common procedure performed on the heart, coronary artery bypass grafting (often referred to as CAB or CABG), does not require “opening” the heart at all as the bypassed blood vessels are on the surface of the heart. This procedure represents greater than 50% of the “open heart” surgeries in the majority of heart centers in the country. Atlanta is no different in this regard.


It is unclear to me why the Department of Community Health Survey distinguishes open from closed procedures as this is mostly irrelevant for this type of survey. It is, however, important for quality comparisons and data tracking.


Some centers like ours, WellStar Cardiovascular Surgery and Emory Hospital Midtown prefer to do CABG procedures without the use of the heart-lung machine. The so-called “off-pump” or “beating heart bypass” is often confused and mistakenly reported in a separate category from CABG with the utilization of the heart-lung machine. I am aware that some centers such as Piedmont do not perform the “off-pump” procedure as often as others. This decision is the discretion and comfort level of the operating surgeon and the clinical needs of the patient.


If my assumptions are correct (I can assure you they are), but please check for yourself, then 50% of the so-called “open heart” procedures performed at ALL of the centers reported in the surveys would indeed be “closed heart” procedures.


Therefore, a more fair comparison of the data set from DCH from which you cite would be “total number” of heart surgeries. Thus in 2014, WellStar Kennestone Hospital performed 759 procedures, Emory Midtown-960, and Piedmont-1248.


I applaud all of my colleagues who labor daily in the fight to treat heart disease. And I congratulate Piedmont on its expansion and the great work that they do each and every day. However, the article as is is misleading and deserves clarification.


Thank you!

William A. Cooper, MD, MBA
Medical Director, Cardiovascular Surgery,
Wellstar-Kennestone Hospital

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