New Clinical Study Brings Hope to Patients with Heart Failure
A new report recently published by the American College of Cardiology brings encouraging news for patients suffering from congestive heart failure. The study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, found that heart failure is highly treatable, and the testing and treatment methods for patients experiencing heart failure are measurably more effective when a cardiologist is involved in their care.
Congestive heart failure is commonly defined as the inability of the heart to deliver adequate amounts of blood to the various organ systems of the body. The disease is a major public health problem affecting more that two million victims and accounting for 200,000 deaths every year. Current U.S. hospital figures show almost one million admissions are attributed to the disease.
"Several common illnesses are known to result in congestive heart failure including high blood pressure or damage from a heart attack," according to Dr. Alan Kogan, a member of the North Suburban Cardiology Group. "Other causes of heart failure may be atherosclerosis, a congenital heart defect, heart muscle disease, or heart valve problems due to past rheumatic fever or other illnesses. Because of the cardiac impairment, the heart lacks the strength to keep blood circulating normally throughout the body. The damaged heart continues to work, but can not pump blood as efficiently as it should.
"As blood flows from the failing heart at a slower rate, the returning blood flowing to the heart backs up, causing congestion in the tissues," Dr. Kogan explains. "This frequently produces edema, a swelling condition which is often experienced in the legs and ankles, or other parts of the body. There are also patients in whom the fluid collects in the lungs and interferes with breathing, which produces shortness of breath, especially when lying down. The kidneys also are affected, reducing their ability to dispose of sodium and water, which contributes to the problem of swelling and can result in corresponding weight gain."
Intensive management of the condition by a cardiologist has been shown to be the best approach to reducing the harmful effects of the disease. The University of Pittsburgh report discovered, for example, that a cardiologist was more likely to treat hospitalized patients with the most severe symptoms of congestive heart failure. Even though the disease was more serious in these patients, the study finds that care by a physician specially trained to treat their illness cuts the risk of readmission by almost halt compared to patients not treated by a cardiologist. The study concluded, therefore, that involvement of a cardiologist in the care of patients with congestive heart failure is directly associated with greater expectations for improvement in their health.
"To produce these positive outcomes we may use one or more approaches for the treatment the disease," Dr. Kogan notes. "These can include rest, an appropriate diet, modification of more strenuous activities and medication uniquely suited to each patient's specific condition."
Several new drugs are now available which have shown promising results. Some are intended to increase the pumping action of the heart; others are taken to help the body eliminate excess salt and water; while yet a third type expands blood vessels to decrease resistance to blood flow, which permits more effective circulation.
Cardiology Group Member Cited For Heart Test Proficiency
A distinction achieved by fewer than one-half of one percent of the world's cardiologists has been earned by North Suburban Cardiology Group member Dr. Karoon Nititham, who recently received certification for special proficiency in echocardiography.
Echocardiography is a sophisticated diagnostic method used to detect heart disease. The test transmits pulses of sound into the chest and the echoes returning from the surfaces of the heart walls and valves are plotted and recorded to produce a picture of the heart's size, shape and movements.
Dr. Nititham's special designation in the testing procedure was awarded by the American Society of Echocardiography and carries added merit because he scored in the top 15 percent of those taking the exam. Dr. Nititham is on the staffs of St. Francis Hospital, Evanston, Northwest Community Hospital, Arlington Heights, and Columbia-Hoffman Estates Hospital.
How to Form a Partnership with Your Doctor
To assure the optimum results when visiting a physician, you and your doctor should form a partnership in making decisions about health goals. The North Suburban Cardiology Group has several suggestions about the role you can play in helping improve your condition, and questions you can ask the doctor to better understand the medical diagnosis and the treatment program being followed.
If the doctor suggests more physical activity; be sure to ask:
When a certain type of diet is recommended it's important to know:
If you are taking several different medications, you will want to:
Northwest Suburbs Emerging as Center for Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases
The continuing development of state-of-the-art medical services at Northwest Community Hospital is being complemented by the opening of expanded diagnostic and treatment resources available through affiliated doctors of the North Suburban Cardiology Group. The newly enlarged medical facility, 1614 W. Central Rd., has been doubled in size as part of the program to bring further advancement in techniques used to treat cardiovascular disease.
"Although the death rate from heart disease has dropped dramatically in recent years-falling 23 percent in the past decade-acute cardiovascular problems remain by far as the largest cause of serious illness in the country," according to Dr. Edward Pinsel, who is past chairman of the Department of Cardiology at Northwest Community Hospital and a member of the North Suburban physicians group. "Even with the great strides being made in the prevention and treatment of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure, these health threats still account for almost half of all deaths in the United States."
In response to the risks posed by coronary artery diseases, Dr. Pinsel and his colleagues have enhanced testing capabilities at the North Suburban Cardiology Group facility to include transesophageal echocardiography and nuclear camera diagnostic techniques.