Tanner to Offer Open-heart Surgery

October 28, 2019

Clinical expansion will give region comprehensive heart care


Tanner Health System is moving ahead with its plans to establish an open-heart surgery program in Carrollton.


With open-heart surgery, residents will be able to receive services — like coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery — without having to travel out of the area. More than 200,000 CABG procedures are performed nationally each year.


“Building a comprehensive heart care program has been our goal for many years, and we’ve worked steadily toward it,” said Loy Howard, president and CEO of Tanner Health System. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death in our region, and as a community healthcare organization, it’s our role to offer the services our neighbors need to have the best chance of surviving the disease.”


The health system earned state approval to expand its cardiac services, overcoming objections from other regional hospitals.


The expansion of services will require Tanner to build out a new operating suite at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton designed for the procedure, as well as recruit cardiothoracic surgeons to its medical staff to perform the surgeries. Additional staff — in both clinical and nonclinical roles — will also be needed for the program.


“Open-heart surgery is a hallmark of a major medical center,” said Benjamin Camp, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Tanner. “Rather than leaving our region for care, open-heart surgery will be a reason people are coming into west Georgia.”


The program will be the latest step in Tanner’s growing heart program. The health system began offering interventional cardiology, including angioplasty and stenting, at its Carrollton hospital in 2006. In 2008, it opened the four-story Tanner Heart and Vascular Center on the campus of Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton. Interventional heart services were expanded to Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica in 2015.


Most recently, both hospitals earned accreditations as chest pain centers, with streamlined practices to ensure the fastest clinical response to heart attack treatment possible.


“Our community has a higher rate of cardiovascular disease than the rest of the nation,” said Shazib Khawaja, MD, a board-certified interventional cardiologist with Tanner Heart & Vascular Specialists and medical operations leader for Tanner Heart Care. “We’re addressing that with programs to prevent chronic disease, encourage more physical activity and healthier diets. But that doesn’t immediately reverse a trend that has been growing for decades.


“That’s why we must make sure that the most effective treatments are available close to home, especially when time is so critical in relation to outcomes,” Dr. Khawaja said.


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Georgia, which ranks 38th among the states for the number of cardiovascular deaths. Counties primarily served by Tanner have higher age-adjusted death rates for major cardiac disease than the statewide rate and consistently have higher cardiovascular-related death rates than Georgia’s average.


“The availability of open-heart services in Carrollton is going to save lives in our region,” said State Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton. “Lack of healthcare services leads to higher mortality rates here than in more urban parts of our state. Rural citizens should not face a higher mortality rate for cardiovascular disease because of where they live, and the open-heart surgical program Tanner is establishing will help our neighbors have as good a shot at surviving heart disease as people in Atlanta or elsewhere.”


Christopher Arant, MD, also a board-certified interventional cardiologist with Tanner Heart & Vascular Specialists, said open-heart surgery gives doctors more options for treatment.


“This is not a service that’s been easy or convenient for people who live in our region,” said Dr. Arant. “Open-heart surgery can give people a new lease on life, but until now, having the procedure has been a huge hardship. Hospitals that offer it are far away in densely populated areas, and it requires a seven- to 10-day hospital stay after the surgery for recovery. That makes it difficult for families to visit their loved ones in the hospital and be engaged with their care. Now, we’re going to be able to give people that full range of cardiac services — including both open-heart surgery and more complex interventional cardiac procedures — right here in Carrollton.”


Tanner offers heart care services in Carrollton, Villa Rica, Bremen and in Wedowee, Alabama. More information on cardiac care at Tanner can be found at