Living Well: Teamwork, Technology Transforming Heart Care
There is no “I” in “heart health.”
Over the course of my cardiology career – more than three decades and counting – I’ve seen a great many changes. There are new technologies with which to care for patients. We have a better understanding of the heart and the body.
But more importantly, we have a better way to care for patients: A team approach. Together, we can make the best use of technology, medical science and the latest therapies and techniques, all for the benefit of our patients.
A Special Purpose
Cardiologists are specialists. That means other healthcare providers, especially primary care providers, refer patients to us because we have additional training and experience in the function and diseases of the heart. That’s the first example of why teamwork is so important in heart care.
Cardiology has also gotten so complex that no one can truly be an expert in the whole field. Providers like myself pool our knowledge and experience so we can find the best options for the patient. The following subspecialty board certifications can be found among the providers in my office:
- Cardiovascular disease: This is the main cardiology subspecialty, and the one in which I specialize. This subspecialty can address most of the specialty needs of heart patients and I can also refer patients to other cardiology subspecialists if there is a need.
- Cardiac electrophysiology: This subspecialty deals with the electrical systems of the heart and specializes in treating heart rhythm problems.
- Interventional cardiology: This subspecialty focuses on managing cardiovascular disease. Interventional cardiologists treat heart problems using a catheter-based approach.
- Thoracic and cardiac surgery: Cardiovascular surgery is a key part of heart care. Cardiologists like myself work closely with heart surgeons to find the best way to help patients.
A Clearer Picture
Another important example of how teamwork helps with heart care can be found in diagnostic imaging. The heart is hidden from our eyes, so we have to rely on other ways to detect and diagnose problems. As diagnostic imaging has improved, so too has our ability to detect and treat heart problems.
Here are three examples of how diagnostic imaging is used in cardiology care:
- Computerized Tomography (CT): Using a computer and X-rays, we can detect some of the most common problems of the heart. This includes structural problems, such as abnormal positioning of blood vessels or holes in the walls that separate the chambers of the heart, and is also the state-of-the-art imaging method for diseases of the aorta such as aortic aneurysms. It is also being used in Emergency Departments in the evaluation of chest pain.
- Echocardiography: This method uses ultrasound waves to show us a moving “picture” of the heart. It’s extremely useful for analyzing the structure and function of the heart. It can also help us measure how effectively the heart is pumping blood, which is essential in the treatment of heart failure.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Using powerful magnets and radiofrequency waves, MRI can closely examine tissue within the heart. More advanced MRI machines can also show blood flowing through the heart as it is beating. MRI is especially useful at detecting problems that CT or echocardiography can miss, such as previous heart attacks and scar tissue.
A Beat You Can Follow
The future of cardiology is a bright one. I anticipate there will be further advances in medical technology and our understanding of the heart. New medications will become available and help patients live longer with a better quality of life.
February is National Heart Month and in the Living Well column every Thursday this month, physician experts like me are offering up their input on how you can take care of your heart. We’ve talked about some trends in heart care, ways in which we can help you, and how you can modify your lifestyle and benefit your own health.
There is one fact that I want to stress. All of us, from those with existing heart problems to those who are currently healthy, has a role to play in our own heart health. When I talk about the team approach to heart care, that team doesn’t just include healthcare providers. It also includes you. What you do for your heart and overall health is more important than any piece of technology or any medication.
If you have more questions about heart health, talk to your primary care providers. They can help you with preventive screenings that can catch heart (and other) problems early or help prevent these issues altogether. They can also help refer you to specialists like me who can offer advanced care and guidance, if necessary. We’re happy to help however we can, but the most important member of the team that handles your heart health is always going to be you.
Dr. Peter Gregor is a board-certified cardiologist with Owensboro Health’s One Health medical group. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a One Health provider, call 844-44-MY-ONE (844-446-9663).