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Our History

Arkansas Heart Hospital was founded by a small group of driven cardiologists who stood together one night on what would become 1701 South Shackleford Road in Little Rock and dreamed together at the thought of creating a hospital completely dedicated to the heart right in the center of Arkansas. Led by Dr. Bruce Murphy, the group shared a clear and distinct vision to provide patient care in an institution that would serve people throughout Arkansas and rival in quality world-renowned names like Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, and Lennox Hill.

“Absolutely delighting patients.” This was Dr. Murphy’s goal as these physicians partnered with Medcath Corporation to fund the building project of what would become Arkansas Heart Hospital in 1997. Though many said after its grand opening this new Little Rock-based hospital wouldn’t last a year, they forged on. Fanning out across the state from the Delta to the River Ralley, they brought unparalleled cardiac care to patients in their own hometowns. In the meantime, a strong clinical team carried out a unique and powerful patient care strategy of taking services directly to the bedside.

Status quo was not in the vocabulary of Arkansas Heart Hospital’s earliest team members. Procedures would be innovative. Bedside care would be immediate. Cleanliness would be expected. Food would be unsurpassed in a hospital setting. The experience would feel like family.

Our story begins in May 1995 when conversations with MedCath began to create Arkansas’ first and only Arkansas Heart Hospital. Thirty days later an agreement was reached, and by December, construction was underway.

The official ground-breaking ceremony was held in February 1996. It would still be a year before the brand-new hospital in West Little Rock would open its doors for patient care. On March 3,1997, the doors officially opened on the new 21-bed facility. In less than 90 days, the first of many milestones was reached, among them being the 100th heart surgery in May.

From the first day to today, innovation has been a driving force that separates Arkansas Heart Hospital from the competition. A few noteworthy examples include:

  • Being the first in the state to use the Excimer Laser System, using light to break down, vaporize and remove plaque in heart arteries.
  • In July 1998, the 1,000th heart surgery was performed.
  • Later in the same year, AHH was the first in Arkansas to use the laser in peripheral.
  • In 1999, Heart Hospital cardiologists were setting the mark nationally by being the first in the United States to use the retrograde tibial approach to chronic total occlusion superficial femoral artery.
  • The new millennium brought further milestones, including the 5,000th OR case in 2001.
  • Arkansas’ first freestanding cardiac cath lab opened in February 2003.
  • November 2003, the 5,000th heart surgery was performed.
  • In February 2005, Arkansas Heart Hospital was the first in the state to utilize a 64-slice CT scanner in patient care.
  • In May 2005, surgeons performed their 10,000th OR case.
  • Also in 2005, AHH was the first in Arkansas to open a Peripheral Vascular Clinic.
  • 2007 saw another year of growth, with Arkansas Heart Hospital adding another 28 beds (bringing the total to 112).
  • In 2008, the hospital opened its first stand-alone Wound Care & Hyperbaric Clinic.
  • 2009 brought recognition for being awarded as being in the Top 1% in the United States for Patient Satisfaction.

In 2010, Medcath decided to sell all hospital assets. For most hospitals, this would mean transitioning to another (but likely unfamiliar) outside owner – but not Arkansas Heart Hospital. Once again, Dr. Bruce Murphy’s vision transcended typical fate. At the peak of his career as a world-renowned interventional cardiologist, he surrendered his medical license to allow Arkansas Heart Hospital to become a fully locally owned institution. Patient-centered culture would remain, protected from unacquainted outside influences. Innovation would be allowed to continue to thrive, ensuring the continuation of delivering state-of-the-art care to Arkansas and the region.