By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
When dealing in matters of the heart, medical professionals agree one test can be the difference between life and death.
Screening for heart abnormalities, coronary artery disease or other heart-related health issues is essential for diagnosing a heart problem and receiving the proper treatment to ensure a long healthy life.
Gateway-area residents who suspect an issue exists have an abundance of options available within their community to test what may be a potentially life-threatening condition.
The Heart Center at Medical Associates boasts echocardiography, stress echo and testing, carotid ultrasound, nuclear imaging, vascular testing and screening, electrocardiogram, holtor monitoring, impedance cardiography, pacemaker monitoring and tilt table testing. All are critical for preventing or detecting potential heart problems.
“There is nothing they need in outpatient services that they can’t get here,” Cardiologist Dr. Saadi Albaghdadi said.
Albaghdadi is one of three board-certified cardiologists who is highly trained and offers several years of experience at Medical Associates.
Using the tests available, the heart center is able to identify problems such as valvular disease, heart arythmia problems, structural abnormalities and coronary artery disease. The results from many of these tests are available for the doctors to review within minutes of completion, which allows the doctors to quickly diagnose the patient.
“Absolutely, these are life saving,” Albaghdadi said. “Sometimes we put a patient straight to the hospital.”
According to Heart Center employee Kelly Cramer, RDMS, RVT, RDMS, 1,350 echocardiograms were performed last year alone. The center also performed 1,444 nuclear stress tests and 1,452 EKGs.
“Without these tests the doctors wouldn’t be able to diagnose heart disease,” Cramer said.
While these tests can be instrumental in preventing a deadly incident, they are mostly used as a preventative measure.
The nuclear imaging for example, looks for trouble spots that could affect a patient’s heart health. Colleen Conroy, a certified nuclear medical technician at Medical Associates, injects a patient with a small amount of radioactive material and takes images of the heart to measure bloodflow. Patients are then put under “stress” by walking a treadmill to see how the blood flows when not at rest.
“We could get on the path to correcting,” Conroy said. “It’s a very good diagnostic tool.”
The nuclear medicine, echocardiography and vascular labs are all accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission. Accreditation by the IAC means these labs underwent a thorough review of their operational and technical components by a panel of experts.
The IAC grants accreditation only to those facilities found to be providing quality patient care and in compliance with national standards through a comprehensive application process including detailed case study review.
The Heart Center also is home to a brand new echocardiography system. The machine just arrived at Medical Associates in December. It allows the technicians to see inside the heart through three-dimensional images that allow the patient to be diagnosed and evaluated at a level two-dimensional machines cannot.
“It just offers the best quality images that are available today,” Cramer said. “It can give you basically the surgeon’s view of the valve.”
In addition to using the equipment and tests for preventative reasons, doctors and technicians use them to ensure new abnormalities haven’t occurred after a cardiac event in order to continue care for the heart.
“They’re vital in the future, too,” Albaghdadi said.