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Wednesday
Jun212006

Detecting a Silent Killer

Detecting Heart DiseaseThe Daily Pilot
June 21, 2006
By Lauren Vane

In continuing a tradition of being at the forefront of cardiovascular healthcare, Hoag Hospital on Tuesday opened the first valvular heart disease center on the West Coast.  The Hoag Heart Valve Center is designed to screen and treat those with valvular heart disease, a condition that often goes unnoticed until it is too late, doctors said.

"I think it's important for people to be aware that there's such a thing as valvular disease," said Dr. Pravin Shah, medical director of the Hoag Heart Valve Center.

The team at the Heart Valve Center at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach believes that early screening can save lives, especially in people who have a family history of valvular heart disease.

"From the community-service prospective, we are constantly looking to service this community," said Dr. Richard Afable, chief executive and president of Hoag Hospital.

Incidents of valvular heart disease are increasing, Shah said.  At Hoag Hospital, valvular heart disease accounts for 40% of the hospital's open heart surgeries.  The good news is that screenings are easy.  For about $250, a three-dimensional echocardiogram can show doctors whether heart valves are working properly.  The echocardiogram is not invasive and only takes a few minutes.

After screening, if necessary, the Heart Valve Center has a surgical team that can repair or replace the damaged valve.  The center is equipped with a robotic system that allows surgeons to operate by making a smaller incision than is normally required.  Inside an operating room in the hospital, Hoag Heart Valve Center surgical director Dr. Aidan Raney demonstrated the robotic system on a pig's heart, which is similar to the human heart.  The echocardiogram screening is helpful in the operating room because it provides the surgeon with a roadmap to the valve that needs to be fixed, Shah said.

"Once I'm in there, sometimes the findings are really subtle," Raney said.

Valvular disease is often hidden, and symptoms may not present themselves until the disease is in advanced stages.  Symptoms such as getting tired easily or having shortness of breath are often ignored, Shah said.

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