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Q&A Topic: Time is Essential in Treating Cardiac Emergencies

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When every second counts…the brand-new, state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization lab, part of the Seema Boesky Heart Center at Northern Westchester Hospital will provide advanced lifesaving treatment close to home.

Carl D. Reimers, MD, FACC, FSCAI

Q:  What is a cardiac catheterization lab?

A: It is a special procedure room in a hospital where cardiac specialists, also called interventional cardiologists, diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, such as various types of heart attack. They use tiny flexible tubes called catheters to access the heart and coronary (heart) blood vessels and remove the blockages within arteries that usually cause heart problems.

Whenever any portion of the heart lacks adequate blood flow, there is a real danger of cardiac arrest, which is the abrupt loss of heart function leading to death. In the event of a heart attack, opening up an artery to restore blood flow within 90 minutes of first medical contact results in the best outcomes.

Q: What must happen within those 90 minutes?

A: As digitized moving images are used to diagnose the cardiovascular issue, multiple supports are often provided to the critically ill patient.  Then there is the catheterization procedure to eliminate the blockage. 

Q: What cardiovascular conditions will be treated?

A:  Primarily coronary artery disease. This spectrum of conditions includes:   

  • Chronic stable angina: You feel a heaviness in the chest when you run.
  • Angina with unstable symptoms: You experience heart pain at rest or with minimal exertion that continues to get worse.
  • Acute coronary syndrome:  You are about to have a heart attack, and as I often put it, “feel pain from brushing your teeth.”
  • Heart attack – this ranges from a small heart attack caused by blockage or narrowing in a branch of an artery causing chest discomfort to a massive heart attack during which the heart fails to pump blood.
  • Congestive heart failure: Because your heart can’t pump blood well enough, fluid backs up into the lungs. Picture an overflowing sink.

Q: How will these conditions be diagnosed and treated?

A: A diagnostic procedure provides a “movie” of the heart and coronary arteries that shows any blockages. Treatment usually involves a catheter carrying a tiny balloon that inflates once it’s in the blocked area, pushing open the artery. Next, a tiny stainless steel coil called a stent is placed there as scaffolding to keep the artery open. The balloon is removed; the stent remains in place.

Q: What will distinguish Northern Westchester Hospital’s cath lab from others?

A: The new lab is an extension of Lenox Hill Hospital’s nationally renowned cardiac services program, ranked by Healthgrades among the top five percent of hospitals in the nation for overall cardiac services for six years straight. This connection means you and your loved ones will receive care from some of the nation’s top cardiac physicians, all extensively trained in high-risk cases. The lab is open 24/7, 365 days to handle all cardiac emergencies.

Q:  Should I be concerned about coronary artery disease?

A:  It is the biggest killer today in the United States, equally present in men and women once they hit 70 years, with the incidence in women rising steadily after menopause.

The care and safety of our community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is Northern Westchester Hospital’s top priority. We have put maximum safety measures in place to prevent exposure to the coronavirus for anyone who comes to the Hospital for emergent or scheduled care. Learn about what we are doing to keep you safe and what to expect if you need care: nwhc.net/covid-19-response 

Learn More About Carl D. Reimers, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab
Northern Westchester Hospital
Northwell Cardiology Service Line Director for Westchester County


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