Entries in Cardiology (3)


Cardiologist Makes TV Debut on ABC's "Grey’s Anatomy"

Mike Ferrari/UH Case Medical Center(LOS ANGELES) -- On ABC's Grey’s Anatomy this week, as Dr. Christina Yang, played by actress Sandra Oh, performed an operation to insert a parachute device into a patient’s heart. As she explained how it worked, her intern, Dr. Heather Brooks had one thing to say:

“That is crazyballs.”

In the scene, real life cardiologist Dr. Marco Costa is standing next to Yang, though he doesn’t have any lines. Costa was there to teach Oh how to fake the surgery for the cameras because he’s one of two leading experts on the device. As a reward, they put him in the episode.

After a 10-hour day on set to make sure Oh had the steps just right, the 30-second shot aired Thursday night.

“It was quick,” Costa, a University Hospitals cardiologist, told ABC News of his television debut. His face is in shadow during the scene, but the intern is holding the parachute device up for the cameras.”This kind of attention is important to create awareness and to help people that are out there that have a heart problem and have been given no option of therapy to learn that there is an option.”

The Parachute Ventricular Partitioning Device, which resembles an inside-out cocktail umbrella, redirects blood flow in a heart damaged by heart attack, Costa said. A damaged heart loses some of its shape, making it less able to pump blood where it needs to go as the muscle contracts. But the parachute has a conical shape that moves with the heart to focus blood flow, allowing the healthy parts of the heart to function normally when they would otherwise be overcompensating for the damaged parts.

Crazyballs, right?

Although the Grey’s Anatomy scene was short, Oh and Costa were standing over a “patient” who was awake but sedated. The parachute implantation procedure is somewhat like implanting a stent. The doctors use cardiac catheterization to deliver the parachute to the heart by inserting a tube into an artery in the patient’s thigh and pushing the device to the heart.

“We rehearsed a little so she [Oh] would understand all the little steps take place,” Costa said. “I think she did very well. I wish she was in the medical field. It would be easy to teach her how to do a lot of things.”

Although Americans invented the parachute and it is made by California-based medical device company CardioKinetix, it is not yet approved for standard care in the United States. Costa and his colleague, Dr. William Abraham at Ohio State University, are leading a clinical trial that will allow 500 patients to receive the device in the U.S. and Canada. They’ve already used it in 100 patients in Europe, where it was recently approved for standard use.

“Heart failure is an end of life disease we have in cardiology,” Costa said. “We believe a mechanical approach can make the heart work better. To take the ‘failure’ out of ‘heart failure,’ this might be one of the solutions.”

About 5.7 million people in the United States have heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the primary cause of 55,000 deaths a year.

Costa’s latest trial has already begun with patients in Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio, Costa said.

As for whether stardom has gone to Costa’s head, it’s safe to say he’ll stick to surgery.

“They told me to try to look normal, and I was like, ‘That’s easy for you to say,’” he said. “When the scene actually took place, we were more familiar with the crew and the team, but it was still not easy. I would rather do a real procedure than acting.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


NC Hospitals Cutting Treatment Times to Lengthen Lives

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROXBOROUGH, N.C.) -- When Virginia Gardner felt faint during choir practice, she had no idea she was having a heart attack.

"My chest started feeling tight," said Gardner, 64, a great-grandmother from Roxborough, N.C. "My throat felt dry and I couldn't breathe and I couldn't swallow."

Another choir member called 911. And within 70 minutes, Gardner was having surgery to unblock her artery.

"They didn't stop moving," Gardner said of the paramedics and hospital staff who rushed her straight into surgery. "I'm quite sure it would have been a lot worse if people wouldn't have responded as quickly as they did."

Shaving minutes off heart attack treatment times can save lives, a new study has found. And all it takes is a little coordination.

"Time is muscle, and muscle determines whether you live or die from a heart attack," said Dr. James Jollis, a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and lead author of the study published in the journal Circulation. "The sooner you are treated, the more chance you have to survive and do better."

But time spent waiting for an ambulance, driving to a hospital and enduring diagnostic tests before surgery can quickly add up. So Jollis and colleagues created a program to get doctors, nurses and paramedics from hospitals across North Carolina to work together to streamline treatment.

"It's similar to what happens for trauma patients," said Jollis, adding that the average ambulance ride is 25 minutes – valuable time during which paramedics can be diagnosing the heart attack and alerting the hospital to the incoming patient. "We have protocols in place to get them in quickly and start treatment immediately."

Across the 119 North Carolina hospitals that participated in the program, the proportion of patients treated within 90 minutes rose from 83 percent to 89 percent. And patients treated within 90 minutes were half as likely to die from a heart attack.

Gardner was one of those patients.

The program is expanding to 20 more regions.

"If we can diagnose and treat patients quickly across the country, thousands of lives could be saved," Jollis said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A New Valve, Without Open Heart Surgery?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Open heart surgery was the only way to get a new heart valve -- until now.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Thursday approved a procedure that, for the first time, would allow patients to undergo aortic valve replacement through a small skin cut, according to media reports. And Friday, Dr. Martin Leon, director of the Cardiovascular Interventional Therapy Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, performed his 304th procedure.

“My patient [today] was a frail, 90-year old doctor whose life had become unbearable,” Leon told ABC News. “He couldn’t walk across a room without getting short of breath, and he was constantly getting dizzy and fainting. He came in for the procedure this morning, and within 45 minutes, he had a new valve.”

The valve, called the Sapien Transcatheter Heart Valve, is used to treat aortic valve stenosis, a disease of the elderly that affects the largest heart valve -- the aortic valve. With age, the valve becomes thick and stiff and unable to perform its primary duty of helping the heart deliver blood to the body. If the condition becomes serious, over time people begin to feel weak, dizzy, have frequent fainting spells and eventually die of heart failure.

“Before this procedure, patients’ outlook was dismal,” said Leon. “Fifty percent of my patients would die within one year of getting symptoms, and the end of their life would be excruciatingly painful.”

Dr. Leon says that this procedure has had extraordinary results, not only because it has upped patient survival by 20 percent, but because it has improved the quality of life for patients suffering with this condition. Patients are no longer struggling to breathe; they can be more active and spend less time in the hospital and more time enjoying life.

Will open heart surgery now be a thing of the past for valve disease? Not yet, said Leon.

“So far this procedure has only been approved for the sickest of the sick, those people who can’t get surgery,” he said. “Next year we are going to talk to the FDA about expanding their approval to include people who are at-risk, but not necessarily as sick.”

Leon, who developed this procedure with his co-collaborator, Dr. Craig Smith, chairman of the Department of Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, now works on a heart valve team of cardiologists, surgeons and other specialists to perfect the valve and make it safer for patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio