Detroit Cardiologists
Get Directions Southfield - (248) 424-5000   15565 Northland Drive | Suite 108E | Southfield, MI 48075 Hours | Mon – Sat | 7:30 am – 5:00 pm Toll Free | (855) 543-2783   (855) 5-HEARTDOCS - Fax | (248) 424-5099 Doctors Available 24/7 for Emergencies | (313) 222-0330
Detroit Heart Doctors
Get Directions Dearborn - (313) 791-3000 Dearborn Professional Building 2421 Monroe Street | Suite 101 | Dearborn, MI 48124 Hours | Mon – Sat | 7:30 am – 5:00 pm Toll Free | (855) 543-2783   (855) 5-HEARTDOCS - Fax | (313) 791-2800 Doctors Available 24/7 for Emergencies | (313) 222-0330
Detroit Heart Surgeons
Get Directions Detroit - (313) 993-7777   4160 John R Street | Suite 510 | Detroit, MI 48201 Hours | Mon – Sat | 7:30 am – 5:00 pm Toll Free | (855) 543-2783   (855) 5-HEARTDOCS - Fax | (313) 993-2563 Doctors Available 24/7 for Emergencies | (313) 222-0330
  • More
  • Southfield
    (248) 424-5000
  • More
  • Dearborn
    (313) 791-3000
  • More
  • Detroit
    (313) 993-7777
24/7 EMERGENCY (313) 222-0330

Frequently Asked Questions

Cardiovascular Surgeons

Michigan Heart Team | Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 1. What is heart failure?
  2. 2. What happens if a heart-attack patient goes without treatment?
  3. 3. How long does it take for a heart attack patient to be treated?
  4. 4. What is interventional cardiology?
  5. 5. What types of heart disease are treated with interventional cardiology?
  6. 6. How is cardiac catheterization used to diagnose cardiovascular disease?
  7. 7. What types of procedures do interventional cardiologists perform?
  8. 8. What is a drug-coated stent?
  9. 9. Who are the experts in interventional cardiology?

1. What is heart failure?

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood through the heart to meet the body's needs for blood and oxygen. Basically, the heart can't keep up with its workload.

At first the heart tries to make up for this by:

  • Enlarging. When the heart chamber enlarges, it stretches more and can contract more strongly, so it pumps more blood.
  • Developing more muscle mass. The increase in muscle mass occurs because the contracting cells of the heart get bigger. This lets the heart pump more strongly, at least initially.
  • Pumping faster. This helps to increase the heart's output.

The body also tries to compensate in other ways:

  • Blood vessels narrow to help elevate pressure, making up for the heart's power loss.
  • Blood is diverted away from less vital areas to maintain flow to the heart and brain.

These temporary measures mask the problem of heart failure, but they don't solve it. Heart failure continues and worsens until these substitute processes no longer work.

Eventually the heart and body just can't keep up, and the person experiences fatigue, breathing problems or other symptoms that usually prompt a trip to the doctor.

The body's compensation mechanisms help explain why some people may not become aware of their condition until years after their heart begins its decline. (It's also a good reason to have a regular checkup with your doctor.)

Heart failure can involve the heart's left side, right side or both sides. However, it usually affects the left side first

2. What happens if a heart-attack patient goes without treatment?

Every minute that heart-attack patients suffer without treatment reduces their chances of survival and increases the recovery time for those who do. Signs of a stroke (from the American Heart Association):

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing.
  • Sudden trouble walking and/or dizziness.
  • Sudden severe headaches.

3. How long does it take for a heart attack patient to be treated?

The average heart attack patient isn't treated by a cardiologist for up to two hours. The goal for most hospitals is 90 minutes. DMC's Cardio Team One will deliver care in 45 minutes. Signs of a heart attack (from the American Heart Association):

  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in the upper body such as in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath — with or without chest discomfort.

4. What is interventional cardiology?

Interventional cardiology refers to various non-surgical procedures for treating cardiovascular disease. Interventional cardiologists use catheters – thin, flexible tubes – to get inside blood vessels for diagnostic tests or to repair damaged vessels or other heart structures, often avoiding the need for surgery.

5. What types of heart disease are treated with interventional cardiology?

Interventional cardiologists treat narrowed arteries and weakened heart valves – often caused by coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, or peripheral vascular disease.

Coronary artery disease is the narrowing of the coronary arteries, the tubes which supply the heart muscle with blood and oxygen. This narrowing of the arteries is caused by atherosclerosis – the buildup of fatty deposits, cholesterol, calcium, and plaque on the inner surface of the arteries. Atherosclerosis restricts blood flow to the heart, which can lead to heart attack or other heart problems. Symptoms may include angina (intermittent chest pain), shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, and/or weakness.

Heart Valve Disease involves heart valves that are not working correctly to regulate the flow of blood through the heart chambers. This can arise from birth defects or through damage by rheumatic fever, bacterial infection, or heart attacks. Valves also can degenerate with the normal aging process. To compensate, your heart must pump harder, and may be unable to supply adequate blood circulation to the rest of your body. Two common forms of heart valve disease are aortic valve stenosis and mitral valve regurgitation. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the ankles and legs, fatigue, dizziness, and/or fainting.

Peripheral Vascular Disease involves the other arteries that run throughout your body. Like the coronary arteries in your heart, these vessels can become clogged and hardened through atherosclerosis, and can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke, or limb loss. Symptoms may also include pain in the leg muscles (particularly calves and thighs) and/or severe aching pain in your toes or feet at night.

6. How is cardiac catheterization used to diagnose cardiovascular disease?

Cardiac Catheterization is a test used to evaluate your coronary arteries and heart valve function, It will identify the size and location of plaques that may have built up in your arteries from atherosclerosis, the strength of your heart muscle, and the adequacy of valve function. To start the cardiac catheterization, the interventional cardiologist threads a catheter (thin flexible tube) through a blood vessel in your arm or groin and into your heart. With the catheter in place, the cardiologist can measure blood pressure, take blood samples, and inject dyes into your coronary arteries or arteries elsewhere in your body to trace the movement of blood through the arteries and chambers of the heart. By watching the dye move through your heart's chambers and blood vessels, your cardiologist can see whether the arteries are narrowed or blocked, and whether the valves are working properly. This helps determine whether you may need bypass or valve surgery (by a cardiac surgeon) or angioplasty or catheter-based valve repair (by an interventional cardiologist).

7. What types of procedures do interventional cardiologists perform?

Interventional cardiologists at HVI select one or more procedures best-suited to each patient. Some of these procedures include:

  • Angioplasty and stenting – A long, slender tube is inserted through a blood vessel in your leg or wrist, and guided to the heart or elsewhere in your body. A dye is injected through the arteries to guide the cardiologist during the stenting procedure. A balloon at the tip of the catheter is inflated to stretch open the artery and restore increased blood flow to the heart. In most cases, a small metal mesh cylinder called a stent is then placed in the vessel to help keep it open.
  • Atherectomy – Devices with tiny blades are sometimes used to cut away plaque deposits caused by atherosclerosis inside the blood vessel.
  • Carotid Stenting – Similarly, balloons and stents can be used to open the carotid arteries, the main blood vessels to the brain, and thereby lessen the risk of stroke. This procedure was just recently approved by the FDA.
  • Embolic Protection – In some cases, particularly when the narrowing being treated is in a bypass graft or in the carotid arteries, filters and other specialized devices are used to help ensure that pieces of the plaque don't break off and travel in the blood to cause damage.
  • Percutaneous mitral valve repair – A catheter is introduced through a blood vessel in your leg and guided through a vein to the heart. Smaller catheters holding a special clip is guided into place and positioned near to, or actually attached to, the mitral valve to make it function properly. This is a very new procedure and HVI is one of just a few centers in the world participating in the clinical trials for this procedure.

8. What is a drug-coated stent?

A stent is a mesh metal tube inserted after angioplasty to keep the artery propped open. Drug-coated stents (also called drug-eluting stents) provide an additional benefit: They release a medication that prevents scarring during the first few weeks after insertion, when scarring is most likely to occur. With traditional stents, about 20% of patients who undergo angioplasty experience restenosis – scarring of tissue around the stent – which can narrow or block the artery again. Use of a drug-coated stent dramatically lowers the patient's risk of needing another procedure due to restenosis. Although drug-coated stents were just approved by the FDA in April 2003, cardiac patients at HVI have had access to these devices for years, through clinical trials. HVI physicians have been pioneers in all phases of the development of drug-coated stents, and continue to participate in and direct clinical trials offering new generations of these devices to patients.

9. Who are the experts in interventional cardiology?

The Interventional Cardiology team of physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital are world-renowned leaders in their field – utilizing state-of-the-art technology and procedures, many of which have been developed and tested at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The catheterization laboratories at HVI support approximately 1,800 coronary interventions and over 5,000 total procedures each year, including many on an outpatient basis.

Detroit Heart Doctors