It’s February, that means it’s Heart Month! However, here at the Heart & Vascular Center at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, every month is Heart Month. It’s our constant goal to provide excellent cardiac care for every patient every time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have dedicated staff willing to leave their families day or night to care for you and your family members. I’m so proud to be part of a select group that is willing to commit to the constant demands, the continuing education, and the call time.
I’ve worked in cardiovascular care for 10 years. In that time I have seen a lot of changes in how we treat peripheral vascular disease and critical limb ischemia. I’m incredibly lucky to have worked with progressive, innovative, and well known cardiologists during my time with the Heart & Vascular Center. With that notoriety, we often get to be on the cutting edge of the newest and greatest technology. I enjoy seeing things posted on social media about the next “big” thing. I often want to post “we already use that” or “we tried that and it doesn’t work that great!”
Despite the progress we have made in treating peripheral vascular disease, not much has changed in cardiac care since the development of drug-eluting stents. That is until last year, when bioabsorbable polymers and stents hit the U.S. market. There is a lot of advertising on television and the internet. I’m also getting a lot of questions from patients, families, and hospital staff. Patients often wonder “what kind of stent should I get?” I wish I had an easy answer for everyone, but it’s complicated.
When placing a stent in your coronary artery, your cardiologist has a great deal of information to think about. Why are you here? Unstable angina, stable angina resistant to aggressive medical management, new diagnosis of ischemic cardiomyopathy? Non-ST elevation myocardial infarction? Or the granddaddy of them all…an ST-elevation MI? The blockages can be made up of different substances such as blood clots, soft plaque, and calcified plaque. Where is your blockage and what percentage is blocked? Is it at the beginning of an artery, the end, or at a bifurcation (where one artery splits into two)? Is the artery straight or twisted? Do you have lots of blockages in lots of different places? How healthy are your heart valves? Do you need by-pass surgery? Are you healthy enough for surgery? What other health problems do you have? Are you young or old? What medications do you take, and what allergies do you have? Are you at risk for falls, will you need a surgery in the next year? Can you afford to pay for your medications? This is actually an abbreviated list of information your cardiologist must process to ensure you get exactly what you need. Each stent has its benefits and its drawbacks; our job is to ensure you get exactly what you need.
We also spend a lot of time looking at new technology and technology we’re currently using. We evaluate if it’s working like it should, are we having any bad outcomes, is it easy to use, are we seeing these patients come back to us? If there’s new technology, we’ve probably heard of it. The companies selling this new technology only make money if they sell it, and they spend a lot of time and effort advertising. OUR job is to determine if the product is beneficial for our patients; is it easy to use repeatedly; is the product better than what we are using today; or will we be able to serve a group of patients we haven’t previously been able to serve?
So is the “latest and greatest” stent best for you? Maybe. This is where you need to rely on the relationship with your cardiologist. Having someone you trust by your side who can explain your options, in a way you can understand, is top priority. It’s also important to express any concerns with your cardiologist, let them know if you have trouble paying for your prescriptions or you have been falling at home. It might be embarrassing, but this is your trusted cardiologist and it’s important to have the right information to make the right decision for you. What type of stent is right for you? The cardiologists of The Heart & Vascular Center at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center are here to help you make that decision. We’re dedicated to excellent cardiac care for every patient every time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.