Cardiac Catheterization

Maryland Cardiology Services

During a medical emergency like acute myocardial infarction— heart attack—it's reassuring to know that the gold standard in cardiac care is just moments away.

Meritus Medical Center has been a designated Cardiac Interventional Center since April 2011. This designation by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services recognizes hospitals that provide skilled cardiac care 24 hours a day, seven days a week—including percutaneous cardiac intervention (PCI), a procedure used to treat patients having a heart attack. During a PCI, the surgeon opens blocked arteries with a balloon and places stents to hold the artery open. Meritus Medical Center performs PCIs on an emergency basis, as well as by scheduled appointment for patients whose arteries are partially blocked and in danger of causing a heart attack.

Our cardiac catheterization lab is staffed by a team of cardiac nurses and interventional cardiologists from Hagerstown Heart, CardioCare, and Robinwood Heart, who are on call at all hours of the day and night. We currently perform about 295 PCIs a year for patients who would have previously been transferred to another medical center for treatment. Being able to offer this standard of care locally for men and women experiencing a heart attack has been a great achievement for our patients, their families, and our community.

The cardiologists at Meritus Medical Center are proud to be able to offer advanced heart treatments in our ongoing effort to serve our patients and community.

What Is Acute Myocardial Infarction?

During an acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack, the blood flow to the heart is interrupted. This deprives the heart of oxygen and damages or destroys part of the heart muscle. Heart attack is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S.

The interruption in blood flow is usually caused by plaque, a substance primarily composed of cholesterol and fatty acids. The plaque builds up on the walls of the arteries, which can narrow the space through which blood passes. When part of the plaque breaks off, a blood clot forms and creates a sudden blockage.

Symptoms

The most common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include the following:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest. The discomfort or pain can be mild or strong; it will last more than a few minutes, or it may fade and then come back.
  • Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or before chest discomfort
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting, or breaking out in a cold sweat. These symptoms are more common among women.

If you think you or someone you know may be having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away. It's extremely important to seek medical assistance immediately. Even if your symptoms stop completely within five minutes, still call your doctor. Also, only take an ambulance to the hospital, because going in a private car can delay treatment. And finally, take a nitroglycerin pill if your doctor has prescribed this type of medicine for you.

Diagnosis

A patient who enters Meritus Medical Center's emergency department with chest pain will be fast-tracked in order to obtain vital signs and electrocardiogram (EKG) results within about ten minutes. The EKG shows electrical activity in the heart. If the EKG indicates the need for an angioplasty, the patient will go directly to our cath lab for treatment.

Treatment

When a heart attack occurs, the treatment is to open the artery to allow blood to pass through to the heart. A procedure called coronary angioplasty does just this, using a balloon and often a stent.

During an angioplasty, the cardiologist threads a wire with a balloon into the blocked part of the artery, then inflates it. This presses the plaque against the walls of the artery, opening a clear path for blood to move through. The cardiologist will often place a stent—a small tube of wire mesh—in the artery to help ensure that it remains open. During the procedure, the cardiologist can see your arteries, along with any areas of blockage, on a large screen.

Cardiac Catheterization