The Beat Goes On

April 01, 2012

One minute, 18-year-old Patrick Artner was driving down the Ventura Freeway. The next minute, he had passed out at the wheel, causing an accident.

Tests soon revealed the reason Artner lost consciousness was tachycardia, a condition where the heart beats too fast.

To restore Artner’s heart rate to normal, cardiologists at Providence Tarzana Medical Center performed a procedure called an ablation, during which they inserted a thin flexible tube into his heart. A special machine delivered energy through that catheter to the tiny area of the heart muscle that was causing the abnormal rhythm, eliminating the problem. A couple of days later Artner returned to high school, and today he is attending college, grateful for the lifesaving care he received.

Artner’s story is just one of countless examples of the care Providence’s experts and facilities can provide to people with cardiac rhythm problems and other heart conditions, such as blocked and narrowed arteries, heart attacks and congestive heart failure.

Keeping a Steady Rhythm

Providence Holy Cross, Providence Saint Joseph, Providence Tarzana and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance all have developed heart arrhythmia evaluation and management programs that address abnormal heart rhythms.

“Cardiac electrophysiologists are like electricians working on the electrical systems of the heart,” says Dave T. Kim, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at Providence Tarzana.

With their dedicated electrophysiology labs, Providence Tarzana and Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance can perform the spectrum of procedures related to electrical problems with the heart, such as tachycardia and arrhythmia.

In fact, electrophysiology studies are performed at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance through the Vasek Polak Cardiovascular Institute. These studies can test, record and correct the abnormal pathways in the heart, and physicians can safely reproduce the abnormal heart rhythm to determine if medication, radiofrequency ablation or the placement of an automatic implantable cardiac defibrillator is needed. Procedures are performed on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

“A lot of the technology assists us in being more precise and working more quickly, hopefully with better outcomes,” Dr. Kim says. “Plus, we’re always looking for new technology that can help us further expand our capabilities.”

Maintaining the Flow

Interventional cardiology is another area of expertise at Providence. Examples of interventional cardiology procedures include angioplasty and stenting, minimally invasive procedures that open blocked arteries to restore blood flow to the heart.

Providence Holy Cross, Providence Saint Joseph, Providence Tarzana and Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance are all STEMI Receiving Centers, meeting guidelines established by the American Heart Association and approved by the Los Angeles County Department of Emergency Medical Services.

As STEMI Receiving Centers, these hospitals have protocols in place to respond rapidly when a patient having a heart attack is brought into the emergency department (ED).

“We’re staffed 24/7,” says Jack A. Patterson, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Providence Holy Cross, “and we have an excellent track record of door-to-balloon times and outcomes.”

This means Providence Holy Cross evaluates a patient and performs angioplasty to open blocked arteries within the established timeframe proven to deliver optimal results.

Providence Holy Cross performs other interventional procedures, too, such as one that removes blood clots from arteries and another that can eliminate hard calcifications in the blood vessels.

Staying Strong

Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance was recognized as one of the 2011 Thomson Reuters 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals. That’s because the hospital is committed to achieving superior outcomes.

Not only does the hospital offer a range of cardiology services that use minimally invasive techniques meaning less trauma and faster recovery for patients, but about a year ago, Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance instituted a protocol for patients with congestive heart failure (CHF). Hospital readmission rates are extremely high for people with CHF, so Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance set out to change that.

The protocol involves educating patients on exactly what they need to do to successfully manage their CHF at home. A nurse provides detailed instructions on medications, diet and warning signs of worsening CHF, which the patient and family members repeat back to confirm their understanding of the regimen.

“We’ve reduced the readmission rate to about 18 percent overall,” says Michele Del Vicario, M.D., a cardiologist at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance. “We’re doing everything we can to give patients the best possible care.”

In addition, the hospital offers a specialized endovascular suite, where, using advanced technology, physicians are able to repair abdominal aortic aneurysms. And because the doctors use smaller incisions, the patient is able to recover quicker and go home sooner.