Instant intervention: Probing hearts in real-time
BACKGROUND: A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Heart attacks most often occur as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis, and the buildup of plaque occurs over many years. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open) inside of an artery. This causes a blood clot to form on the plaque's surface. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. If the blockage isn't treated quickly, the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die. Healthy heart tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This heart damage may not be obvious, or it may cause severe or long-lasting problems. (Source: www.nhlbi.nih.gov)
SIGNS: The warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack aren't the same for everyone. Many heart attacks start slowly as mild pain or discomfort. Some people don't have symptoms at all. Heart attacks that occur without any symptoms or very mild symptoms are called silent heart attacks. The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. This includes new chest pain or discomfort or a change in the pattern of existing chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that often lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. The feeling can be mild or severe. Heart attack pain sometimes feels like indigestion or heartburn. (Source: www.nhlbi.nih.gov)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new device is allowing surgeons at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to view in real time the movement of blood and the amount of pressure in the veins, arteries and chambers of the heart and react quickly to any hemodynamic instabilities (compromised blood movement). The specialized probe, a hemodynamic transesophageal echocardiography (hTEE) device, is inserted into the patient's esophagus to visualize the cardiac chambers and allow for hemodynamic management—the continuous monitoring of the movement of blood and pressure in the veins, arteries and chambers of heart—for up to 72 hours. The probe captures images and sends them to a screen in the patient's room to monitor his or her response to fluid interventions and to help determine or re-direct the best course of treatment over an extended period of time. (Source: http://www.jeffersonhospital.org)
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