Bloodless surgery: Techniques first used for Jehovah's Witnesses now being used to help other patients

Charles Peterson came to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank suffering from chest pains. "The doctor said he didn't want to scare me, but I was in the middle of a heart attack," Charles recalls. Doctors soon discovered he had five arteries almost totally blocked.

There was only one solution to restore blood flow to his heart: coronary artery bypass surgery. But Charles is a devout Jehovah's Witness and the tenets of his faith do not allow him to accept any blood transfusions, which are often needed during heart surgery.

To minimize the risk of blood loss, Dr. Ali Gheissari performed what is known as off-pump bypass surgery. During conventional heart bypass surgery, a heart/lung machine (the pump) keeps the patient alive while the heart is stopped, but patients usually bleed more during surgery when the heart/lung pump is used. Instead, Dr. Gheissari performed five bypasses while Mr. Peterson's heart kept beating. "Only about 20 percent of surgeons in the U.S. perform surgery this way. We have the technology and the capability to do cases like Mr. Peterson's because we do off-pump surgery and high risk heart surgery routinely." Dr. Gheissari explains.

"Bloodless surgery is another significant step in the evolution of cardiac surgery," explains Dr. Gheissari. "When we can use advanced medical techniques to satisfy diverse patient needs and preferences, we're providing medical care of the highest quality."

For more information, contact our Health Resource Center at 1-844-510-4325, or find a heart specialist by searching our online physician directory.

Chest pain: Fast action saves lives

The day Carolyn McCool experienced her first heart attack began just like any other day. The 55-year-old Canyon Country resident traveled to Burbank for her job as a receptionist for a large accounting firm. She had been running errands and eating lunch just hours before learning that what she thought was heartburn was actually an acute myocardial infarction (AMI), commonly known as a heart attack.

"I had indigestion and then I started to feel sick to my stomach," she recalls. "But I had no idea I was having a heart attack. My boss saved my life by calling 911."

McCool recalls very little of the ride to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, located less than three miles from her office. However, she remembers that everything happened quickly when she arrived at the emergency room.

"She had the typical symptoms of chest pain, and the EKG clearly indicated she was having a heart attack. It's extremely important that she came in early," says cardiologist Bharat Shah, MD, who determined that McCool needed to have her clogged artery opened with angioplasty. "With heart attack patients, time is muscle. Time is heart."

McCool's clogged artery was opened with angioplasty within 70 minutes from the time she arrived at the Providence Saint Joseph emergency department, something McCool is sure saved her life. "I could not have had better care."

For more information, contact our Health Resource Center at 1-844-510-4325, or find a heart specialist by searching our online physician directory.

Providence lead extraction expertise solves puzzle for pacemaker patient

A few months after 62-year-old Era Butler retired from a celebrated teaching career in her hometown of Perris, California, she had surgery to replace the battery in a pacemaker system used to regulate her heartbeat. The pacemaker - which uses a small, battery-powered generator to deliver timed, electrical impulses to the heart muscle through tiny wire leads - had been implanted 12 years earlier when complications from an illness caused Butler's heartbeat to become irregular.

Less than a week after the pacemaker battery replacement, Butler began suffering from fever, chills and body aches. "I thought it was a flu virus," says Butler's daughter, Gloria Woolridge. "I didn't suspect it was the pacemaker until three weeks later."

Physicians at the hospital near Butler's home, where the procedure had been performed, ordered a series of tests and subsequently re-hospitalized her. After determining that she had an infection, her doctors prescribed antibiotics. Butler still failed to improve. Her local physicians then determined that Butler's pacemaker leads had been infected and transferred her to a tertiary healthcare facility in Los Angeles specializing in cardiac care. However, physicians at the hospital told Butler they did not have the expertise or the technology to remove the leads and that the risk of surgery was prohibitive. They planned to continue to treat Butler with antibiotics. Butler's daughter worried about this approach. "I had done the research, and I thought, that's not going to work. She's going to die," says Woolridge. Butler had developed an infection inside her heart.

Woolridge soon discovered the "missing piece" for her mother was lead extraction surgery, a specialized procedure required when the pacemaker leads become damaged, infected or blocked by scar tissue. Only a handful of physicians in the world perform the surgery. Fortunately for Butler, one of those surgeons is Raymond Schaerf, MD, Chief of Staff at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank and member of the prestigious Heart Rhythm Society.

"When I first started doing lead extractions in 1979, the only operation available was an open heart procedure," notes Dr. Schaerf. "With the development of the new tools and the advanced technology available at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center (PSJMC), patients can often go home in one to two days and only have a standard pacemaker incision."

Gloria Woolridge considers all of it a gift: the technology, the staff and Dr. Schaerf's leadership, expertise and compassion.

For more information, contact our Health Resource Center at 1-844-510-4325, or find a heart specialist by searching our online physician directory.

Cardiologist tends to young man's heart and peace of mind

As a program manager in Santa Clarita Valley's aerospace industry, 43-year old Jack Kightlinger is a busy man. In June 2007, Jack was so busy that he initially disregarded a common heart attack warning sign: a burning sensation in his chest. "I felt pain, but it was nagging, not piercing, and sometimes it would go away completely," Jack explains. "I thought maybe I'd go to the hospital the next day if the pain was still there."

Two days later, Jack finally went to a hospital emergency department at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center near his home in Stevenson Ranch. An electrocardiogram (EKG), however, did not show any serious abnormalities. Doctors sent Jack home with a prescription for Vicodin, but the medication did little to relieve the pain now expanding from his chest to his shoulders, arms and hands. The next day, Jack sought help in a local doctor's office where a repeat EKG was unremarkable. His blood pressure and blood sugar were extremely high though, which prompted the physician to advise Jack to immediately return to the emergency department for further evaluation and treatment. When Jack arrived, he was in the early phase of a heart attack as documented by a third EKG.

"Jack's heart had been sending warning signs in the days leading up to his attack," explains interventional cardiologist Samuel Kojoglanian, MD, adding that the chest pain Jack experienced is often caused when a build up of fatty plaque in the coronary arteries restricts blood flow and oxygen to the heart. "In a heart attack, the plaque actually ruptures and can create a complete blockage," says Dr. Kojoglanian. "Once that happens we have about 90 minutes to open the clogged vessel in order to prevent permanent damage to the heart."

Numerous clinical studies indicate that opening a clogged artery in the initial phase of a heart attack using angioplasty and stents minimizes damage to the heart muscle, reduces complications and produces better long-term outcomes. Less than 90 minutes after the onset of Jack's heart attack, Dr. Kojoglanian successfully performed double vessel angioplasty, stopping the heart attack in its tracks.

For more information, contact our Health Resource Center at 1-844-510-4325, or find a heart specialist by searching our online physician directory.