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Put your heart in the right hands

Bookmark and Share The mysteries of the heart start en utero, when just 22 days after conception, a tiny heart starts to beat for the first time. From that moment on, and throughout our lives, our hearts work tirelessly, keeping us alive by pumping oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to the far reaches of our bodies. When we're younger, most of us don't think twice about heart health. But as the body ages, heart problems can develop because of heredity, disease or lifestyle issues such as a cholesterol-rich diet, lack of exercise or smoking. Lines of defense
A center for cardiac catheterization
Total cardiac teamwork

Lines of defense
Virtua's board-certified cardiologists and sophisticated cardiac technologies enable patients to easily access life-saving diagnoses and treatments. "An electrocardiogram (EKG) is an important first test to measure the frequency and regularity of a person's heart rhythm," explains Vincent Spagnuolo, MD, chief of cardiology at Virtua Memorial Hospital. This painless test measures the heart's electrical impulses via electrodes placed on the surface of the chest. If an EKG presents an abnormal reading, the physician may recommend an echocardiogram at Virtua's nationally accredited echocardiography lab. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce real-time images of the heart, allowing the cardiologist to visualize - in two dimensions - detailed anatomy of the heart valves, assess heart muscle function and measure blood flow within the heart. Some heart conditions may not be detected unless the heart is forced to work harder than usual. In this case, a stress test can determine the amount of exertion the heart can handle. During the 30-minute test, a patient walks on a treadmill or takes medication to simulate exercise while a physician monitors the heartbeat and blood pressure. Based on the results, a physician can identify blockages or narrowing in the arteries. A center for cardiac catheterization
If a stress test indicates a blockage, a cardiac catheterization may be necessary. "This allows a physician to view the heart function, evaluate the surrounding coronary arteries and direct treatment for plaque build-up that is narrowing the arteries," notes Randy Mintz, MD, medical director, cardiac catheterization laboratory at Virtua Marlton Hospital. During the test, the patient is mildly sedated while the cardiologist guides a narrow tube, called a catheter, into a blood vessel in the person's arm or leg. The catheter is slowly guided to the heart with the aid of advanced imaging technology. A contrast dye is injected into the catheter. Once it reaches the heart, the cardiologist can observe the heart's movement along with the location and severity of the problem. Virtua Marlton's catheterization lab performed nearly 700 procedures in 2003 and has been designated a full-service lab by the New Jersey State Department of Health. This enables cardiologists to perform catheterization on high-risk patients with heart failure, advanced coronary disease or a recent heart attack. Virtua Health has two catheterizations labs; the other is at Virtua Memorial. Serving more than 250 patients in 2003, the Memorial catheterization lab has leading-edge digital technology including several real-time, viewing stations throughout the hospital. This means that a patient's physician can watch the procedure from another location in the hospital as it is being performed. Total cardiac teamwork
Virtua has nearly 100 board-certified cardiologists as well as many support groups, educational programs and wellness services. With sites in Mt. Laurel and Voorhees, there are also two cardiac rehabilitation programs that are nationally accredited by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Be true to your heart. For more information or an appointment with a Virtua cardiologist, call 1-888-Virtua-3.