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Advances in Cardiac Care at the Heart and Vascular Center

At Lowell General Hospital, we are fully committed to the fight against heart disease. For patients, that means we provide access to educational programs, screenings, diagnostics and treatment options. But it’s when a patient is having a heart attack that commitment matters most. Paramedics begin treatment during transport, and our team of experienced interventional cardiologists have access to the latest technology and life-saving techniques that reduce the risk of life altering illness, disability, or death.

“For a patient undergoing a sudden cardiac event, every minute counts,” says Dr. Kirk MacNaught, interventional cardiologist with Merrimack Valley Cardiology Associates. Fortunately, technology has rapidly advanced over the years, from the interventions that paramedics can perform out in the field, to reductions in the time we can treat in the cath lab.”

Fortunately for those living in the Merrimack Valley, Lowell General provides emergency angioplasty services 24 hours a day/7 days per week/365 days a year to specifically treat heart attacks and is a high performer in these cardiac cases, particularly for the speed in which patients are treated.

For patients having a heart attack, or STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction), The American Heart Association recommends that the artery be reopened within 90 minutes. This is called “door to balloon time” – the time from which STEMI is diagnosed in a patient to the time the artery is reopened using a tiny balloon inserted with a catheter to where the blood vessel is clogged. The balloon is inflated to widen the artery and restore blood flow to the heart. Most often, a stent is placed to keep the artery open.

Our team of cardiac experts consistently exceed this goal, resulting in better patient outcomes and quicker recovery. For example, our door to balloon time for STEMI patients in Quarter 3, 2018 was 41 minutes, well below the 90 minute goal and well below the national average of 60 minutes.

One of the latest pieces of this effort to improve survival rates of heart attack patients is the implementation of a new heart pump system for patients in cardiogenic shock. This condition happens when the heart is so weak that it can’t pump enough blood, blood pressure falls, and organs begin to fail.

Cardiogenic shock may happen as a result of a heart attack or other causes such as abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, heart defects, genetics, or from a viral illness. The Impella® CP heart pump device takes blood from the left ventricle and pumps it into the circulatory system, which allows the heart to rest.

“It’s the newest device that can be inserted safely thorough the groin and allows the heart to rest and keeps a patient’s blood pumping when their heart is too weak,” says Dr. MacNaught. “Because it’s so small and the technology is quite advanced, it allows us to preserve organ function and helps to stabilize the patient before transfer to the Intensive Care Unit or until a more permanent device or other interventions can be done.”

Dr. MacNaught is quick to credit the collaborative efforts of the Heart and Vascular Center, Cardiology Department and the Intensive Care Unit staff and physicians for bringing this advanced technology to Lowell General.

“It’s really a testament for everyone coming together for the best interest of patients in
our community.”

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