3 reasons why your heart is in good hands at Audubon

Through groundbreaking research, state-of-the-art care and a focus on prevention and wellness, Norton Audubon Hospital is revolutionizing heart care in our community.

You might be surprised to know that physicians, researchers and specialized nurses in our community are helping revolutionize heart care. Here are three reasons your heart is in good hands at Norton Audubon Hospital, where much of this work is happening.

Groundbreaking research right here at home

For nearly 30 years, research done under Norton Healthcare’s banner has contributed to landmark studies that have helped change life-threatening heart conditions to life-goes-on ones.

“We’ve participated in many national and international landmark studies and been part of numerous leading peer-reviewed articles,” said Joseph A. Lash, M.D., cardiologist, Norton Heart Specialists. He points to three ways research has been a heart care game-changer.

  • In the early 1980s, there were no stents, no angioplasty and no good way to open blocked arteries. Early trials paved the way for angioplasty, which is now a go-to procedure for treating heart attacks.
  • Implantable cardiac defibrillators are now widely used to prevent sudden cardiac death. Why? A major federally funded clinical trial proved these devices offer a huge survival advantage over medication alone.
  • Twenty years ago, physicians questioned using beta blockers to treat congestive heart failure. These medications are now standard heart failure therapy thanks to several large trials that proved their lifesaving value.

State-of-the-art multidisciplinary care

Open-heart surgery has saved a lot of lives and remains the gold standard when treating heart valve disorders. Open surgical procedures require a longer hospital stay and, like most surgeries, has potential risks and side effects that can overwhelm patients like Martha Recktenwald, who needed a heart valve repaired.

“I had already decided I wasn’t going to undergo open-heart surgery,” said Recktenwald, who had seen her husband go through the surgery.

Recktenwald’s thinking changed when her doctor recommended a new, less invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). This procedure, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is done through two very small incisions in the groin. Typically, the procedure is recommended for a type of heart valve failure called inoperable aortic stenosis.

According to Steven W. Etoch, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon, Norton Cardiothoracic Surgery, TAVR procedures are generally reserved for patients who have other medical conditions or may not be well enough for an open-heart procedure. A multidisciplinary team reviews each patient’s history to minimize risks and work to improve quality of life. Patients undergo testing to make sure they meet the criteria to be a candidate for TAVR.

“There are still risk factors associated with TAVR, and patients need to weigh all their options,” Dr. Etoch said.

After talking with her children, Recktenwald decided to move forward with a TAVR procedure. Like most TAVR patients, she saw improvement soon after surgery and was able to return to her normal routine within a few weeks.

A focus on prevention and wellness

Most of us are familiar with standard screenings for cholesterol (keep it under 200) and lipid panels (aim for triglycerides under 150). We may be less familiar with two new vascular screening procedures now recommended for those who meet certain age and health history benchmarks.

Vascular ultrasound screenings are recommended for people age 60 or older. These noninvasive tests look for peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease and abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Coronary calcium scoring for heart disease uses CT scanning to measure calcium deposits in the heart’s arteries. This screening is recommended for people age 50 or older with at least one of following risk factors:

  • History of high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Past or present smoker

Norton Heart Care offers both these screening tests. Watch a video to learn more about coronary calcium scoring, or find a screening location near you.

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