Dean Pollock, MD, FACC is the Medical Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute (IHVI) – Schaufeld Family Heart Center, a hub for advanced cardiovascular care in Loudoun County. Dr. Pollock is a board certified cardiologist with Virginia Heart and has 41 years of clinical experience.
Let’s “Attack” heart attacks for National Heart Month
Every February, we commemorate “Heart Month.” While the number of people affected by heart disease increases with age in both men and women, heart disease does not discriminate. It’s important to be aware of the typical heart disease risk factors and take extra caution if you’re affected by more than one.
Heart disease risk factors
- Previous heart problems
- Cigarette smoking
- Family history of heart disease
- High cholesterol
A heart attack can happen to anyone, including those with no risk factors and younger adults. In fact, since 2015, Inova Loudoun Hospital (ILH) has seen a 36% increase in heart attacks in patients under the age of 45. So, it’s equally important for everyone to know the symptoms that may represent danger.
Heart attack danger symptoms
- Chest pain – especially if precipitated by exertion
- Radiation of pain to the arms, neck, back
- Pain associated with shortness of breath, nausea, sweating
- Prolonged palpitations, especially if associated with dizziness or shortness of breath
- Acute or severe shortness of breath
If these symptoms persist, seek help. If they are severe, call 911.
What causes a heart attack?
Heart attack is generally caused by coronary artery narrowing – usually due to cholesterol blockages – made acute with the onset of blood clotting. Once the heart artery blocks, heart damage begins to occur. The treatment of a heart attack involves stabilizing the patient, dissolving the blood clot and opening the artery as quickly as possible to minimize heart damage.
The evolution of cardiovascular treatment in Loudoun County, VA
In the mid-1980s, many hospitals – including Loudoun – began using “clot-buster” medicines (Streptokinase) at the onset of heart attacks. These medicines frequently dissolved the blood clot and reduced damage – but were not always successful and sometimes caused undue severe bleeding.
In the 1990s, angioplasty (balloon treatment) and stents became available. The goal became getting the heart attack patient into the catheterization laboratory (cath lab) as quickly as possible to open the artery. For Loudoun County residents, that involved a helicopter trip from Inova Loudoun to Inova Fairfax Hospital where the cath lab was located. Treatment was significantly delayed because of the logistics of the transfer. If the weather was bad and the helicopters weren’t flying, ground transportation took even longer.
Fast forward to today. This year, Inova Loudoun will celebrate 10 years since the groundbreaking and addition of its first cath lab. In October 2009, we began offering coronary interventions (balloons and stents) on-site safely and effectively. Since then, the hospital has become a hub for advanced cardiovascular care in Loudoun County – caring for more than 10,000 patients annually.
Nearly 700 heart attack patients have been treated at ILH, with an average door-to-balloon time (time from arrival at the ER until the artery is opened) of less than 60 minutes – well below national benchmarks. This rapid treatment has translated into countless lives saved and a tremendous amount of heart muscle preserved.
Just last year, the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute (IHVI) – Schaufeld Family Heart Center at ILH expanded its infrastructure, cardiovascular health services and community education programs. This included the addition of a brand new electrophysiology suite – adding to the hospital’s two existing labs. The expansion – made possible through the support of a $5 million gift from philanthropists Fred, Karen and Bobbi Schaufeld – will further ensure that Loudouners will always have access to state-of-the-art cardiovascular care close to home.
Be aware of the risks, dangers and symptoms of heart disease. If they occur, seek help. If they are prolonged or severe, get to the hospital immediately – it’s good to know that help is right around the corner.
To learn more about the IHVI – Schaufeld Family Heart Center, visit inovaheart.org/Loudoun.