Expert: Heart & Vascular

St. Luke's Center for Heart and Vascular Health

Cardiac & vascular services

St. Luke’s Center for Heart and Vascular Health provides a full spectrum of cardiac and vascular services for adults and children, from cardiac catheterization to minimally invasive heart and vascular surgery. The first open heart surgery in Idaho was performed at St. Luke’s Boise in 1968, and today we perform more cardiac and vascular procedures in our state-of-the-art facilities than any other hospital in Idaho.

St. Luke's - Leading the Way

- Idaho’s first open heart surgery performed by Dr. Rodney Herr, cardiothoracic surgeon.
- First coronary angiogram in the state.
- First dedicated Cardiac Catheterization Lab in the region.

- Dr. Donald Stott, Boise’s first cardiologist, begins practicing at St. Luke’s. Additional cardiologists establish practice throughout the 1970s: Drs. James W. Smith, David Sim, William Owens, John Hylen, and Marshall Priest.

Early 1980s:
- Clot-busting medication (thrombolytics) in the Emergency Department advances prompt treatment of acute heart attacks.

- Boise’s first and only pediatric cardiology program established. Dr. Michael Nichols, a pediatric cardiologist, arrives to practice at St. Luke’s and is soon supported by the arrival of Dr. Robert Barnes, Boise’s first pediatric cardiovascular surgeon.

- First balloon angioplasty performed in the state and region.

- Arrival of Dr. Walter Seale, the first electrophysiologist to practice in the region and state. The state’s first Electrophysiology (EP) Lab opened to evaluate and correct abnormal heart rhythms.

- Interventional cardiology advances with the first implantation of a coronary stent in Idaho.

- First “off-pump” coronary artery bypass surgery performed in the region.

- First transmyocardial revascularization technique performed by Dr. Robert Barnes.

Late 1990s:
- Minimally invasive closure for congenital heart defects performed by Dr. Michael Nichols in the Cardiac Cath Lab.
- Further development of Cardiac Catheterization Lab device technology, including rotoblator, laser, and brachytherapy; PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) closures for pediatric patients.

- Dr. Michael Tullis performed first invasive aortic endograft for treatment of an abdominal aneurysm in the state of Idaho.

- Pediatric atrial-septal defect/patent foramen ovale closures performed in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab.

- Dedicated endovascular operating room opens for minimally invasive or surgical vascular treatment.

- Further development of invasive and surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation in the Electrophysiology Suites and Cardiovascular Operating Room, performed by Drs. Karl Undesser, Walter Seale, and Andrew Forbes.
- Idaho’s first robotic-assisted cardiothoracic, minimally invasive procedures performed by Dr. Craig Olsen.
- The region’s first drug-eluting stent implantation performed by Dr. Scott Hiatt.

- The region’s first Chest Pain Centers established in St. Luke’s Boise and Meridian hospitals.

- The region’s first digital Electrophysiology Lab implemented (May), decreasing by 20 percent radiation exposure to patients and staff.

- First minimally invasive vascular plaque removal procedure for treatment of peripheral vascular disease by Dr. Philippe Masser.
- First minimally invasive one-stage procedure for treatment of blood clots in the veins by Dr. Philippe Masser.
- National accreditation of Idaho's only Chest Pain Centers at Saint Luke's Boise and Meridian Hospitals.

The future of cardiac & vascular care

Over the past three decades, advancements in medications, technology, and surgical procedures have been as steady as the beat of a healthy heart. Heart and vascular patients at St. Luke’s have additional choices that promise excellent results, with much less discomfort, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery.
“The most common open heart procedure is coronary bypass,” says Dr. Scott Huerd, cardiothoracic surgeon. “It’s an effective operation whose techniques have evolved since Dr. Rodney Herr performed the first open heart surgery here.” However, he notes that an option called “off-pump” coronary bypass is making a difference for select patients.

Surgical treatment of heart valve problems has also come a long way over the years, says Dr. Huerd. For example, 80 to 90 percent of mitral valves are now repaired, rather than replaced. The doctor reports excellent long-term results with open heart mitral valve repair. The biggest benefit to patients? “Without a doubt, it’s that they may no longer need [the blood thinner] Coumadin,” he says.

Non-surgical/surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation

More than two million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation, a condition that occurs when chaotic electrical activity in the top of the heart (the atria) creates rapid and irregular beating in the bottom portion of the heart. With more than 160,000 new cases diagnosed each year, the condition is associated with heart failure and an increased risk for stroke.

More good news is a combined program between cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons is being used to identify people with atrial fibrillation who can benefit from minimally invasive ablation (non-surgical), surgical ablation, and surgical ablation during open-heart procedures. The new program will determine what treatments are needed for select patient populations. “By identifying these patients in advance,” says Dr. Huerd, “perhaps we can correct their irregular heart rhythm forever.”

Chest pain centers enhance cardiac care

Chest pain is one of the most common reasons people seek emergency care. Due to an aging population and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, more and more Idahoans are developing heart disease. To meet this growing need for cardiac emergency care in the best possible way, St. Luke's features nationally ranked, accredited Chest Pain Centers at its Boise and Meridian hospitals.

Caring for little hearts

Boise’s first and only pediatric cardiology program was pioneered at St. Luke’s in 1980; prior to that, area children with heart problems were sent to university hospitals in Seattle or Portland for surgery.
Over the years, the pediatric cardiology program has cared for more than a thousand children, and in the future, thousands more will reap the benefits of continuing technological advancements and expert medical care.

Boise’s pediatric cardiologists, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, and St. Luke’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit physicians and staff work together to ensure the best possible continuum of care for children in our region.