Cardiac Services

Balloon angioplasty and stent placement procedures are used to open narrowed arteries that may lead to a heart attack. Following cardiac catheterization, the physician uses the same plastic tube, or catheter, originally placed in the artery for the catheterization procedure to deliver a balloon which is then inflated to push blockage to the side and open a path for blood flow. A stent is then inserted and pressed against the inside walls of the artery to prevent the blockage from expanding back into the artery.

This service will be administered at St. Mary’s Hospital at 1230 Baxter Street.

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic test which examines the blood flow to your heart. A thin tube, or catheter, is placed into the artery of an arm or leg and led to your heart. An x-ray opaque “dye” is used to enable physicians to look at the heart’s main pumping chamber and arteries.

This service will be administered at St. Mary’s Hospital at 1230 Baxter Street.

Cardiac MRI can reveal information about the heart’s health, such as how much oxygen reaches heart muscle tissue. It can show which parts of the heart have been damaged by a heart attack, are being stressed by a partially blocked blood vessel, contain too much iron, or are struggling with excess water. And cardiac MRI can provide all of this information in a single session, after which the patient can simply go home or return to work.

Cardiac MRI provides 3-D views of the heart and can measure the volume of the heart’s chambers more reliably than any other technique. It is also used to examine vital heart structures such as valves and chamber walls.

This service will be administered either at The Exchange, just off of Ga. 316, or at St. Mary’s Hospital at 1230 Baxter Street.

Cardiac Imaging and Cardiac MRI

St. Mary’s Health Care System and Oconee Heart and Vascular Center are creating the area’s first program to provide early detection of heart problems in patients undergoing treatment for cancer.

St. Mary’s Cardio-Oncology Program uses innovations in cardiac MRI and echocardiography to uncover heart damage in its earliest stages, when the patient and his or her oncologist may still have options to fight the cancer while protecting the patient’s heart.

“Until now, oncologists had no way of knowing if cancer treatment was harming the patient’s heart until it was too late to do anything about it,” said cardiologist Erick Avelar, M.D., clinical director of St. Mary’s Cardio-Oncology Program. “Now, we can provide information that can help oncologists and their patients make better-informed clinical decisions.

St. Mary’s cardio-oncology program makes use of upgraded MRI and echocardiography systems that are sensitive enough to detect very subtle damage to heart tissue. Armed with this information, oncologists can work with their patients to minimize heart damage while fighting the underlying cancer.

“With older technologies, we didn’t have the tools oncologists needed to assess the impact of cancer treatment on the heart,” Dr. Avelar said. “Heart damage could not be detected until ejection fraction – the amount of blood pumped by each contraction – began to decrease. By that time, the heart has already suffered a great deal of damage. With these new technologies, we can detect signs of potential damage earlier, often before the whole heart has been irreversibly weakened.”

Another key component of the program is registered nurse navigator Caitlin Strickland, who comes to St. Mary’s from the outpatient oncology infusion program at Northside Hospital of Atlanta. At St. Mary’s, Strickland provides patients with education about imaging studies and lab tests, assesses patients for new and ongoing cardiac symptoms, monitors test results, and coordinates communications with the cardiologist.

“As a nurse with a strong background in oncology, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of a program that will improve the quality of life and long-term survival rates of cancer survivors,” Strickland said. “Two of my greatest passions in medicine are patient education and disease prevention. I look forward to guiding patients through the cardio-oncology process to help minimize their risk of developing chemotherapy-induced cardiac disease.”

Patients normally will enter St. Mary’s Cardio-Oncology Program during chemotherapy and may continue for months or even years afterwards. Patients and survivors undergo testing on a regular basis, usually every three months. Testing includes a clinical examination, non-invasive MRI, echocardiography testing, and/or blood tests. If the cardiologist sees warning signs of trouble, the patient may be asked to come in for more frequent testing. Throughout the process, the cardiologist stays in close contact with the patient’s oncologist, who can use the information to tailor cancer treatment to the patient’s individual needs and wishes.

For more information, contact Oconee Heart and Vascular Center at 706.389.3440

Coronary computed tomography (CT) angiography is similar to other procedures such as an MRI or CAT scan in that it takes pictures of your heart. The CT provides OHVC physicians with three-dimensional images of how much plaque is accumulated in your coronary arteries. Physicians use images gathered by the CT scan to diagnose heart disease. A coronary CT angiography is non-invasive and is performed in about 10 minutes.

This service will be administered at St. Mary’s Hospital at 1230 Baxter Street.

An echocardiogram, often called a “heart echo,” is a sonogram of the heart. Ultrasound techniques, similar to those that provide images of an unborn child during pregnancy, are used to provide physicians with a two-dimensional image of your heart.

This procedure is helpful in diagnosing cardiovascular diseases, and gives Oconee Heart and Vascular physicians information regarding heart valve function and pumping strength of the heart.

This is a very specialized study to evaluate the heart’s electrical system. With an electrophysiology study, doctors can evaluate the cause of certain types of abnormal heart rhythms and deliver treatment to prevent their reoccurrence.

This service will be administered at St. Mary’s Hospital at 1230 Baxter Street.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) occurs when arteries to the brain, kidneys, arms and legs become clogged. Treatment of blocked arteries to the brain and kidneys can reduce the risk of stroke, kidney failure, and in some instances reduce severely elevated blood pressure. Treatment of blocked arteries to the legs and arms can reduce painful symptoms that occur in the extremities associated with poor blood flow and sometimes help to promote healing of wounds and prevent amputation in the case of severe blood flow deficiency.

When a heart attack occurs, every second counts. Oconee Heart and Vascular physicians are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to initiate your treatment in the Emergency Department. Cardiac catheterization, followed by balloon angioplasty and stent placement to open a clogged artery can save precious heart muscle and increase your chances of a quick recovery and a return to full activities.<code style=”display: none;”> </code>

Heart failure, is one of the most common cardiac conditions affecting millions of Americans. The condition may be related to several different problems such as hypertension, diabetes or coronary artery disease. Your physician will help establish the causes involved and develop a specialized treatment plan, which may improve not only your symptoms related to heart failure, but also significantly increase survival. Many treatment methods may be employed including medications, surgery and ICD placement.

An Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator, or ICD, is a medical device that is implanted under the skin of the chest like a pacemaker. Unlike a typical pacemaker, the ICD can treat both abnormally slow and rapid heart rhythms. An electric shock can be delivered to the heart when a dangerous heart rhythm is detected. ICD’s have been proven to be the most effective way of lowering the risk of death for patients with life threatening heart arrhythmias.

This service will be administered at St. Mary’s Hospital at 1230 Baxter Street.

Commonly known as a “stress test,” a nuclear cardiac stress test is used to evaluate whether there is an adequate blood flow to the heart by detecting blockage within the coronary arteries. Treadmill exercise is preferred, but if unable to exercise, an intravenous medication may be used to simulate exercise. Images of the heart’s blood flow are made using a small amount of radioactive, or nuclear, medicine.

This service will be administered either at St. Mary’s Hospital, or at St. Mary’s Cardiac Imaging Center. The center is located at 2470 Daniells Bridge Road

Pacemakers are used to treat a slow heart rate, and are considered common in cardiovascular treatment. The pacemaker is implanted beneath the skin on the chest using a local-anesthetic and intravenous medications to calm any anxiety. The procedure typically takes less than an hour. St. Mary’s has recently introduced the cutting-edge MRI-safe pacemaker to their growing continuum of cardiac care. These devices can be implanted by OHVC physicians at the Cardiac Catheterization/Electrophysiology Laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital.Follow-up is necessary when you have a pacemaker to ensure that it is functioning properly. A nurse or pacemaker technician will use a programming device to measure the rate and rhythm of your heart and may even change the pacemaker settings per a physician’s request.<code style=”display: none;”> </code>