A look at Durham Regional’s Cath Lab and cardiac care

Joanne Carey
Cardiovascular Registries Coordinator

When EMS brings a patient to our Emergency Department with concerns for a heart attack, or acute myocardial infarction, the doctors and nurses spring into action. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is taken of the heart to see the heart rhythm. This test is key to determining how severe the heart attack is and its location in the heart. The care team also draws several tubes of blood and notes blood pressure and pulse.

Keep your heart healthy!Based on the ECG, the patient may transfer to our Cardiac Catheterization (Cath) Lab, where a cardiologist and staff insert a catheter into the blocked heart artery through the large artery in the groin area. This allows a small sterile balloon to be inserted into the area of blockage and then inflated to improve the flow of oxygen rich blood. The doctor may also place a sterile stent, a small mesh of wire similar to scaffolding, that will keep the newly inflated artery propped open. The goal is to increase blood flow into the affected area of the heart in less than 90 minutes, at which point the heart muscle can begin to die from lack of oxygen. The damaged area then begins to heal into scar tissue.

While at Durham Regional, patients discuss with their doctor factors that contributed to heart disease, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, exercise levels, smoking and weight. Doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to improve the patient’s health; new medicines to help the heart pump more effectively, lower cholesterol and decrease blood pressure or a combination of lifestyle changes and medications.

Patients are discharged to home usually in two to three days. After a few weeks, they can enter a cardiac rehabilitation program to learn about nutrition, methods to stop smoking and exercise to improve heart health. These programs are supervised by trained cardiac rehab nurses and therapists.

Durham Regional’s Cardiac Cath Lab is available 24/7 for heart emergencies, and we have an accredited cardiac rehab program to guide your recovery. Our cardiology team has consistently been recognized by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation for sustained excellence in meeting guidelines for acute myocardial infarction timeliness and therapies.

To learn more about our heart services, visit durhamregional.org/heart.

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