Ask an Expert

Treatments

Learn how heart conditions are treated and the benefits and possible risks that come along with each type of treatment.

  • How is aortic stenosis treated?
  • Treatment for aortic stenosis varies depending on how severe the condition is. If aortic stenosis is mild and causes no symptoms, patients may only be monitored over time. However, patients with more severe aortic stenosis often require medication, surgery or minimally-invasive procedures to repair or replace the valve and relieve symptoms.
  • Who is considered high-risk for surgery?
  • Although all types of surgery carry some risk of complications, certain conditions can increase risk of complications from surgery, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. When considering surgery, it’s important to discuss possible risks and benefits of treatment plans with your doctor.
  • How are heart attacks treated?
  • Early treatment for a heart attack can greatly increase chances of survival and minimize permanent damage to the heart. Immediate treatment can include medicine, a minimally invasive procedure called angioplasty or surgery (coronary artery bypass grafting).
  • How is heart valve disease treated?
  • Depending on how severe heart valve disease is, treatment options may vary. Some patients with minor valve disease may not need any treatment. However, patients with more severe disease may require medication, medical procedures or surgery to correct their condition.
  • What is patient safety?
  • Patient safety is a term used to describe the delivery of quality health care. It is often defined as the “prevention of harm to patients” and the goal of patient safety efforts is to avoid accidental or preventable injuries that result from medical care, like during a hospital stay.
  • Should I take a daily multivitamin?
  • Research suggests that multivitamins may offer certain benefits, like improved mental and physical health. However, the true health benefits of multivitamins are unclear and may vary between individuals.
  • What is a heart transplant
  • A heart transplant is surgery used to replace a damaged or diseased heart with a healthy donor heart. It may be performed in patients with severe chest pain (angina), heart failure, an abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia) or severe heart defects.
  • How common is heart transplantation?
  • It’s estimated that there are more than 3,700 heart transplants performed worldwide each year. However, heart transplantation is only done as a life-saving measure for patients, especially those with severe heart failure, for whom no other treatments have worked. Donor hearts are in short supply so patients who need heart transplantation must go through a careful selection process to ensure that they truly need a new heart, yet are healthy enough to receive it.
  • How are congenital heart defects treated?
  • If you or your child have a heart defect, it can be very scary. But there are a number of treatment options depending on the type of defect and the symptoms. It’s important to find a cardiologist who specializes in congenital heart defects and get support. Learn more about treatment.

  • What is "quality of care?"
  • When providers use the phrase “quality of care,” they’re referring to how well actual medical care is compared to established guidelines or standards. Improving quality of care is a major goal in the health care field, as improved care will improve patient outcomes.
  • How is Tetralogy of Fallot treated?
  • Babies diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot are typically treated with corrective surgery. However, patients with this condition require ongoing monitoring to prevent complications later in life.
  • What is angioplasty?
  • Angioplasty (also called percutaneous coronary intervention) is often recommended for patients diagnosed with diseased arteries of the heart (coronary arteries) or for patients suffering a heart attack. Angioplasty includes a variety of procedures developed to compress fat and cholesterol build-up in the arteries, known as plaque deposits, to help increase the size of narrowed or blocked arteries and improve blood and oxygen flow to the heart.
  • Why is angioplasty done?
  • Angioplasty is used to open narrowed or closed arteries that lead to the heart. Angioplasty is most commonly used to treat heart attack or to help prevent a heart attack in patients with plaque build-up.
  • Why do some women take estrogen during menopause?
  • The estrogen in hormone therapy is used by some postmenopausal women to increase estrogen levels. This helps prevent osteoporosis and perimenopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleep problems.
  • Is estrogen therapy safe?
  • Like all medications, oral estrogen therapy can cause certain side effects such as headaches, nausea, and weight gain. In rare cases, oral estrogen can cause more serious side effects. It’s important to discuss safety concerns with your doctor before taking any drugs.
  • My wife is diagnosed with a faulty tricuspid valve and we are to see the surgeon on Friday. She is 76. What is the typical recovery time for a person of her age for an operation to repair the valve? Will she need home care after the hospitalization? How quickly is the leakage caused by the faulty valve eliminated or greatly reduced following the surgery? What questions should we ask the surgeon?

  • Typical recovery time is dependent upon the extent of the incision and what other things need to be done. If it is a full sternotomy (operation that involves cutting through the sternum), then typical time is about 6–8 weeks. Most people would spend one week or so of that time in the hospital, then follow with rehab. It is safe to assume that a 76 year old person, unless she is in excellent shape, will require some sort of home-health aide after discharge. If the patient has a protracted hospital course, they might need to go to skilled nursing facility for a few weeks after being discharged from the hospital. Typically you see the results on intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) in the OR. Most of the time, a pre-discharge echocardiogram is performed. The health benefits might take a while, perhaps a few months.

    Ideally, tricuspid valve repair requires an experienced surgeon and an experienced center. Here are some questions to ask of the surgeon: How many such operations have done by the surgeon in the last five years? What other procedures does she need along with tricuspid valve repair? How does the surgeon plan to repair the valve valve—a ring, a Kay approach, or a replacement? What are the long-term outcomes of the chosen approach? Also ask how the patient’s right ventricle is functioning, as that will affect outcomes.

    There are also questions to ask about the site where the surgery will be performed. What is the rate of post-op AFib? What is the site’s infection rate? What is the complication rate?

    Best regards,

    Milind Desai, MD, FACC

  • What is the DASH diet?
  • DASH is an eating plan that can help lower your blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH eating plan focuses on foods that are low in bad fats, sugar and salt, but high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. This includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, and beans. These foods can help lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart disease.
  • What is the difference between biological and man-made valves?
  • When faulty heart valves can’t be repaired, they are often replaced with either biological or man-made valves. Biological valves are made from pig, cow or human heart tissue and are specially treated to prevent the body from rejecting the valve. Mechanical valves, on the other hand, are made from man-made materials and patients with mechanical valves need to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to prevent clots from forming on the valve. Mechanical valves last longer and usually don’t require replacement, while biological valves usually last no longer than 15 years. Which type of valve is right for each patient depends on individual characteristics, such as age, health and personal preference.
  • What is a blood thinner?
  • A blood thinner slows down the blood's ability to form clots. This helps prevent clots that can cause life-threatening problems such as stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism. These medicines also can keep blood clots from getting bigger. Blood thinner medicines work in different ways to prevent blood clots, but all of them raise the risk of serious bleeding.
  • When is percutaneous coronary intervention performed?
  • Most often, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is performed to minimize damage to the heart and restore normal blood flow following a heart attack. However, PCI can also be performed in patients with narrowed or blocked arteries to help reduce chest pain and prevent heart attack.
  • My mom had a heart attack and went to emergency room. They did an angioplasty. She felt a lot better. They also found blood flow blockage and recommended by-pass surgery. My family wanted the surgery done as soon as possible. My question: Is there a rush to perform the surgery or could we have waited a day or two?
  • I am happy to hear that your mother did well after she suffered a heart attack. These days most heart attacks can be treated with angioplasty and coronary stents, which are small tubes made of a metal mesh to prop the vessel open. However, in some cases, patients have additional blockages in other coronary vessels that need to be treated. Depending on the number, location, and complexity of these blockages, physicians may choose to place additional stents at a later stage (usually not during the initial procedure to treat the heart attack) or refer the patient for coronary by-pass surgery. The timing of surgery, which alludes directly to your question, depends on whether the patient is clinically stable or not. If the patient is stable, which means that he or she is not having further episodes of chest pain and shortness of breath, and the blood pressure is not low, there is no need to rush to surgery and the patient can wait 24-48 hours or even longer. Sometimes the patient may be stable, but the blockage is located in a critical spot, such as the principal vessel that supplies most blood flow to the heart muscle (left main coronary artery). In these cases it is better not to wait and perform the surgery within 24-48 hours. As you can see, the timing of by-pass surgery depends on many factors and most decisions are individualized. It is always good to have an informed discussion with the doctor taking care of the patient to understand the decisions being made. I hope I was able to answer your question.

     

    Best regards,

    Mauricio G. Cohen, MD, FACC

  • Why do women take fertility treatments?
  • Women take fertility medication when they have trouble conceiving. These medications can help stimulate ovulation, which increases changes of pregnancy.
  • How do fertility treatments impact heart health in women?
  • Common complications associated with fertility treatments include multiple pregnancy, bleeding or infection, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, and premature delivery. Although long-term research on fertility treatments and cardiovascular risk is sparse, research suggests that fertility treatments do not have a negative impact on cardiovascular health.
  • How is metabolic syndrome treated?
  • Healthy lifestyle changes, like losing weight, getting active, eating healthy and quitting smoking, are some of the best ways to help treat metabolic syndrome. Medicine may also help address certain risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high triglycerides. Addressing risk factors that contribute to metabolic syndrome can help greatly reduce risk for both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • What is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)?
  • An ICD is a device that uses electrical pulses or shocks to help patients with an irregular heartbeat maintain normal heart rhythm. Upon detecting an abnormal heart rhythm, ICDs send shocks to the heart to help restore normal rhythm and prevent sudden cardiac death.

Ask an Expert

Please note that every question submitted will not receive a direct response from a Cardiologist. However, we will follow-up with suggested ways to find appropriate information related to your question. Please do not use your last name or any other confidential information in your question.

Meet our Expert

Your questions are answered by more than two dozen members of the American College of Cardiology who volunteer their time with CardioSmart.

Learn more about our volunteers