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Paoli Hospital's cardiac team keeps hearts beating

Patient Spotlight July 29, 2016 By Main Line Health

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Chester County Life.

Steven Passin of Newtown Square knew the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In fact, at 70 years old, he had several of the most common risk factors including age, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Yet, a heart attack was just about the last thing on his mind.

Steven, the president and CEO of Steven Passin & Associates, a continuing medical education consultancy firm, had just seen his doctor for an examination a few months earlier and had no symptoms that would indicate any heart complications.

It was on a 12-day cruise to the Indonesian island of Bali when Steven felt pain between his shoulder blades. “At first it was just uncomfortable, nothing I thought was too serious,” Steven said. “The ship’s doctor gave me strong pain medication, but it didn’t help. Instead, the pain progressively worsened.”

Upon return home from the cruise, Steven’s condition intensified and was now accompanied by shortness of breath. He visited his primary care physician and was directed to the emergency department (ED) at Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health. Shortly after his arrival, Steven was brought from the ED to the cardiac catheterization (cath) lab where Aaron Giltner, MD, interventional cardiologist, Lankenau Heart Institute, Paoli Hospital, with the help of a special X-ray machine, threaded a long, thin tube (catheter) through a blood vessel to the arteries in his heart to look for any blockages or narrowing.

“Cardiac catheterization provides a detailed view from the inside of how efficient the heart and coronary arteries are functioning,” said Alon Aharon, MD, chief of cardiac surgery, at Lankenau Heart Institute, Paoli Hospital, who became involved in Steven’s care after the catheterization procedure discovered several blockages in the major arteries to the heart.

That day, unknowingly, Steven joined a club of more than 780,000 people each year who suffer their first heart attack.

“As someone with multi-vessel disease, a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) was Steven’s best and safest option versus receiving less-invasive stents to open the blockages, restore blood flow to the heart, and relieve the symptoms,” explained Dr. Aharon.

Utilizing pieces of blood vessel from Steven’s leg and chest wall, Dr. Aharon created a new route or “bypass” around the blocked areas for blood to move smoothly.

Today, Steven reflects on the surprising severity of his condition. “I didn’t experience any of the classic symptoms,” he said. “Who knew upper back pain could be a sign of a heart attack?” Dr. Aharon echoes Steven’s insight stating, “If there were any further delay in this diagnosis,he might not be around today.”

Cardiovascular disease is the nation’s leading killer of both men and women, but early detection, along with access to immediate, leading-edge treatment, can help people beat the odds.

As one of the top-performing cardiovascular medicine and surgery programs in the country, the Lankenau Heart Institute is continuously among the first to provide remarkable treatment and surgical options for virtually any heart condition by bringing together advanced technology and medical professionals who are leaders in their field.

“For a ‘community’ hospital, the level of care we offer patients at Paoli and throughout Main Line Health is extraordinary,” said Steven LaPorte, MD, chief of cardiology, Lankenau Heart Institute, Paoli Hospital. “As the depth and breadth of our services continues to grow combined with an elite staff of physicians, nurses, and other cardiac specialists, our program continues to propel to even higher levels of excellence.”

The Lankenau Heart Institute team includes many doctors who’ve achieved local and national recognition. They are known for their compassionate patient care as well as for their incredible contributions to advancing the practice of cardiac medicine.

A nationally recognized leader in cardiac surgery, Konstadinos A. Plestis, MD, system chief of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, Lankenau Heart Institute, came to Main Line Health to enhance the capabilities of the Heart Institute’s cardiac surgery program and to reinforce its position as a destination for superior heart care. Under his leadership, Dr. Plestis further enhanced an already nationally renowned cardiac surgery team. In addition to offering complex minimally invasive surgery, Dr. Plestis has expanded the Lankenau Heart Institute’s capabilities to treat complex aortic disease, from valvular and coronary disease to aortic aneurysms.

“There is no substitute for excellence when choosing a heart care provider,” said Dr. Aharon, reflecting on the fact that Lankenau Heart Institute cardiac surgeons have performed more robotic heart bypass procedures than any other program in the country. “As a whole, the Lankenau Heart Institute is proud to provide the level of services and expertise that few hospitals in our area can match.”

“I always thought the large, university-based medical centers were the place to go in this type of situation,” said Steven. “I was wrong. I owe my life to Dr. Aharon and the entire cardiac team at Paoli Hospital. They are all superstars.”

Since his surgery, Steven said he is doing remarkably well recovering at home and participating in cardiac rehabilitation at Paoli. He returned to work, although on a reduced schedule, and, with help from a nutritionist, has adopted a heart-healthy diet. “An event like this puts things in perspective. I now balance my work life with my health and family, and give my health goals the priority they deserve.”

The Lankenau Heart Institute team provides world-class, innovative care to patients with heart disease at every stage, close to home at four hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—and at 23 community cardiology sites throughout the region. In addition, patients have access to groundbreaking clinical trials exploring new ways to treat heart disease.

Paoli Hospital has earned many national distinctions in cardiac care, including Accredited Chest Pain Center by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care; Outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation Program certification by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation; the Beacon Award for Critical-Care Excellence® in the cardiovascular surgical intensive care unit by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses; and Magnet™ Nursing Excellence by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.