Heart disease affects well over one million Australians with 55,000 heart attacks occurring each year and 55 people dying from heart disease a day. Unfortunately this disease is widely prevalent in Australia, however there are major medical advancements occurring, to help reduce the occurrence of heart attacks and revolutionise treatments.
Since Epworth HealthCare opened its cardiology/cardiac surgery unit 33 years ago, the team has performed 25,000 heart surgeries and over 20,000 percutaneous coronary interventions, a non surgical procedure used to treat congested arteries.
Epworth continues to invest in new technology and training in order to improve treatment methods and achieve better outcomes for patients. One of the advancements that Epworth has made is through the use of CoreValve implantation, which is the replacement of the aortic valve through the blood vessels, rather than valve replacement through open heart surgery.
Associate Professor Ron Dick says “The CoreValve implantation is delivered from the leg which is ideal for older people who may find surgery too onerous. Patients experience faster recovery times and are back to normal quicker than open heart surgery.”
This year the cardiology team is completing their 150th CoreValve implantation.
One of the latest advancements in the area of coronary artery disease is the use of bio-absorbable stents. This new technology is an alternative to coronary artery by-pass, whereby clogged arteries are replaced by grafting an artery from another part of the body so the coronary arteries can function effectively. The bio-absorbable stents are inserted into the blocked artery and help to hold it open to allow blood to flow to the heart. Traditionally stents are made out of metal and remain in the body forever.
The latest advancement in artery stents is an absorbable scaffold which is constructed using polylactide, a material made from renewable resources that can be safely absorbed by the body.
The scaffold holds the artery open and promotes restoration to its original properties. After 6-12 months, it begins to break down and disappear from the body. In two to three years time, the scaffold is completely gone like nothing ever happened.
The benefit of the absorbable stent is that it limits complications that can occur with permanent metal stents and allows the artery to repair itself and function effectively.
Recent research suggests that absorbable scaffolds perform as effectively as their metal predecessors and the procedure takes the same amount of time. Epworth has been using this new technology for the last two years with a 97.5 % success rate.
Associate Professor Ron Dick said ‘The best way for people to access the expert team at Epworth, is to ask your doctor for a direct referral to an Epworth cardiologist,’ especially if you or a family member has some concerns about their heart. He also encourages individuals to actively look after their heart health as the best way to avoid complications in the future.
Associate Professor Ron Dick’s tips for a healthy heart:
- Early and regular assessment of your cholesterol and blood pressure
- Visit your doctor regularly
- Regular exercise
- If you are overweight, try to lose weight
- Nutritious and healthy diet such as fruit, vegetables and lean meats
- If you do smoke, create a plan to stop
- And most importantly if your doctor advises you to take medication to assist with lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure then make sure you do it to avoid a number of potential complications later on
- Ask your family and friends for support