Caring for the complexities of the human heart requires teamwork. At Wuesthoff Health System, it’s a division of labor between the many different disciplines of the cardiology department –— all joining forces to offer preventative care, diagnostics, surgery, rehab and a host of other care options.
“We have a very wide range of specialization here combined with some of the most advanced technology in the country,” said Andy Romine, chief operating officer of Wuesthoff Medical Center-Rockledge. “Everybody has an area of expertise, and they all come together to provide comprehensive heart services for the community. No one group can do it by themselves. We’re a team.”
American Heart Month
Cardiac care is a special emphasis in February, which is American Heart Month. Across the country, it’s a time for health care professionals to remind everyone about the dangers of cardiovascular disease and the preventative measures that can reduce that danger.
One in four deaths in the United States is attributable to cardiovascular disease. That adds up to as many as 2,200 deaths per day in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. As a result, Wuesthoff is helping raise awareness by teaming with the American Heart Association and participating in the Brevard Heart Walk on Saturday, Feb. 18. Wuesthoff will also be hosting their 3rd annual Paint the Night Red heart healthy event on Tuesday, February 28 at Wuesthoff Medical Center-Rockledge, 5-7:30 p.m.
The push during American Heart Month is intended to help people adjust their lifestyles and adopt behaviors that support a heart-healthy existence: smoking cessation, healthy diet, following the doctor’s prescription instructions to the letter, staying physically active and other preventative measures.
Cardiac Care Milestones
Prevention, of course, is only part of the effort. Addressing patients’ existing heart issues remains paramount. This past year, Wuesthoff Medical Center—Rockledge marked two milestones for its cardiac department: the heart surgery program celebrated its 25th anniversary, and the electrophysiology department marked 20 years.
“It’s gratifying to be able to help people in such critical need,” said Bill Sanabria, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon who has been with the heart program for 24 years. “If your kidneys are not working, you can go on dialysis. But if the heart is not working, it impacts all other organs in the body.”
In an ongoing effort to keep the heart “working,” the Rockledge hospital became the first in Florida and only the second in the United States to receive a dual Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission for coronary artery disease and stroke care.
In addition, Wuesthoff has the only cardiopulmonary rehab facility from Sebastian to Titusville, offering a range of recovery services, counseling, and individual support focusing on exercise and nutrition.
The hospital’s electrophysiology program is another critical component of Wuesthoff’s overall heart care. The department focuses on the electrical impulses responsible for maintaining the heart’s rhythm. Electrophysiology professionals help determine whether a patient has an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), as well as its origin. They also assess a patient’s need for a pacemaker, defibrillator, medication, surgery or other treatment.
The program’s anniversary in August 2016 marked the 1996 arrival of Stephen J. Watts, MD, the region’s first board-certified electrophysiologist.
Then there’s the cardiac catheterization lab, which helps heal weakened hearts. Electrophysiology is best explained by way of analogy: the rerouting of traffic as it moves from interstate highways and main roads to residential streets. Physicians and team members can go in and block off, say, US 1 because the electricity is disruptive going that way. The medical team is basically telling the electricity where it needs to go rather than allowing it to take its own route.
Using catheters heated by radio frequencies, electrophysiologists can burn targeted areas of the heart to create scars that block the flow of electricity. Other catheters can redirect impulses by freezing tissue and/or freezing a ring around the inner circumference of a blood vessel.
The Melbourne facility recently added an interventional radiology team that supports a new array of catheter treatments. Using the guidance of X-ray, CT and ultrasound, physicians can insert catheters to diagnose problems, stop bleeding, destroy abnormal cells (varicose veins, cancer, e.g.), and treat hemorrhagic stroke and heart arrhythmias.
By utilizing minimally invasive catheters, medications such as statins, and improved stabilization techniques, physicians can save more lives without having to open a patient’s chest.
“With the patients stabilized, there’s not the same need to perform as many emergency surgeries in the middle of the night as there once was,” said David Sims, MD, also a cardiothoracic surgeon with 18 years in the heart program. “That’s a significant step forward.”