The Wellmont CVA Heart Institute in Kingsport specializes in those kinds of interventions. It is one of the top groups in the nation, according to Carechex, a medical quality rating service of The Delta Group.
Dr. Marc Mayhew, an interventional cardiologist for Wellmont, is just one of the reasons the CVA Heart Institute has such a stellar reputation. Dr. Mayhew received his postgraduate medical training at the University of Alabama where he worked until coming to Wellmont in 2008. "Energetic" is the best description of his persona while "innovative" is the word for his work. He became interested in a novel catheterization technique and was instrumental in bringing the procedure to Kingsport.
As he explains, the typical scenario may begin with symptoms, such as shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain or pressure. If the symptoms and risk factors warrant it, the patient's physician may order a stress test. When the stress test indicates there may be poor blood flow to the heart, Dr. Mayhew will follow up with a heart catheterization which involves injecting dye into the arteries of the heart. A small type of x-ray camera will show the presence and location of any blockages, which are repaired by placing a stent into the artery. Blood flow is improved and the patient's symptoms are relieved.
"The traditional heart cath is done by entering an artery in the groin area. The newest technique, which is gaining popularity in the United States, is done by entering the radial artery in the wrist area. A patient doesn't have to lie on his or her back for three to six hours afterward, which is required by the groin technique. Bleeding risks are minimized, and there is quicker recovery and fewer complications," Dr. Mayhew explains.
He and a few of his colleagues offer the radial catheterization for those patients who qualify; but not all do, he emphasizes. A patient must have large enough arteries in the wrist to accommodate the catheters.
Dr. Mayhew is enthusiastic about the radial cath technique, but no more so than one of his patients who has experienced it.
Tish Cumbow was having some troubling heart symptoms which she was familiar with, having already had two stents placed in her heart in the past. Her doctor advised that, given her history, a heart cath was necessary, but she dreaded it, knowing what she was in for. When her doctor mentioned the new technique being performed by Dr. Mayhew, she says, "I jumped at it."
Comparing the two procedures, she says, "With the standard groin catheterization, I had to lay there on my back for hours. It hurts and you are fairly miserable. With the radial procedure, I could eat, move around, and go to the bathroom immediately. And I was home hours after having it done and they simply told me to take it easy, not to lift with my wrists, but otherwise I was back to my old routine."
Luckily, Tish's diagnosis was that her previous stents were still holding strong and no further surgery was indicated. Dr.Mayhew would prefer that all his patients had such a positive outcome, but as long as heart disease remains the number one cause of death in this country, his skill - as is everyone's at the Wellmont CVA Heart Institute - is still very much in demand.
For more information, call 423-230-5000 or log on to www.wellmont.org/myheart.