Posts Tagged ‘Emory’

October Schedule for HeartWise Lecture Series

We’re pleased to announce a new round of HeartWiseSM Risk Reduction Program Lecture Series for the month of October. Through education and interaction, HeartWiseSM programming strives to lower participant’s risk of heart disease. We cater to patients who are currently suffering from heart disease, and identify people who may be at risk for future heart conditions as well.

Here’s the schedule for this month’s lectures:

Cardiac Medications

Cathy Johnson RN
Monday, October 11, 2010
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

ABC’s of Vitamins & Minerals

Cheryl Williams RD/LD
Monday, October 18th, 2010
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

Heart Healthy Cooking Demonstration

Cheryl Williams RD/LD
Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

The lectures take place at The Emory Clinic at 1525 Clifton Road Northeast, in the 5th Floor conference room. Call 404-778-2850 to reserve your seat. Please note that attendance is free, and everyone is welcome.

Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about the lectures—we look forward to seeing you there!

Pulmonary Valve Replacement: Andrew Sawyer’s Story

My name is Andrew Sawyer, and I’m 25 years old. Believe it or not, before I was 2 years old, I had 4 open-heart surgeries. I spent the first day of my life being transported by helicopter from Douglas, GA to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston for emergency surgery. It was there that Dr. Willis Williams performed 3 open-heart surgeries on me as he attempted to fit the right sized shunt into my heart. I was born without a pulmonary valve (a condition called pulmonary atresia), which prevented the normal flow of blood from my heart to my lungs from being replenished with oxygen.

I spent my first birthday in the hospital, where I underwent my 4th surgery. The surgeons had to place a patch over the area of my missing valve, allowing blood to flow through.

Surgery number five took place when I was in the sixth grade. The existing patch was beginning to fail, so this procedure involved the placement of a pulmonary cadaver valve, restructured my tricuspid valve, and repaired the lining of my right ventricle. Memory is a funny thing—I’ll never forget waking up from the surgery and learning that the Braves were losing to the Yankees in the World Series.

The surgeons predicted that my new pulmonary valve would last for 8-10 years, but remarkably, it lasted for 13. Once a year, I’d go in for my yearly check-up appointment and wonder if this would be the visit that the doctors told me that it was time for another surgery. Every year I heard the welcome words, “see you next year”—until the fall of October of 2009.

That fall, Dr. Book learned through my echocardiogram results that my pulmonary valve was damaged, and it was time for another surgery. I was amazed that the doctors were able to discover this through a simple echo, but technology had advanced since my last surgery, and a catheterization process was unnecessary this time around. Dr. Book and Dr. McConnell recommended that I see Dr. Kogon, a cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in adults with congenital heart defects.

From the start, I knew that I was in great hands with Dr. Kogon—he immediately made me feel at ease, and he was very clear in how he presented my options. I’m not sure I can accurately describe how surreal it was to have a conversation with Dr. Kogon about whether to go with a pig or a cow valve for my surgery. According to Dr. Kogon, there had been great advancements with animal tissue valves. He explained that this would be a better option than a human or mechanical valve—animal valves, for whatever reason, seem to last longer and yield better results. Dr. Kogon estimated that my new bovine valve would last 20-30 years.

Many people ask me if I was discouraged, or scared in reaction to the news of another surgery, but I can honestly say that I wasn’t. I’ve always had an extremely positive attitude throughout my life—this, coupled with my religious conviction carries me through tough times. Strange as it may sound, I compared the pain of my recovery period to one particularly tough summer job I had as a door-to-door salesman. That was one of the harshest, most emotionally taxing periods of my life, and it changed me somewhat. Being told “no” time and time again, and having to get up and hit the road again the next day requires strength and resilience. I realize I’m talking about two completely different types of pain here—but when I was lying in bed in pain post-surgery, that’s exactly what I thought about. I figured, “if I made it through that gut-wrenching summer of door-to-door sales, I can make it through this.”

When I think back to my 6th and most recent surgery, a few things come to mind: first, I couldn’t believe the level of service I experienced at Emory. The nurse technicians were incredibly kind and knowledgeable. I always had baths and a clean bed, and the overall level of care was just phenomenal. Even months after the operation, Dr. Kogon would stop by to visit me during my check-ups with Dr. Book and Dr. McConnell. Knowing I was in such good and capable hands was a comfort in itself.

My recovery experience as a 25-year-old was much different from my experience as a 12-year-old. The doctors explained the difference to me, saying that a 12-year-old body is made up of quite a bit of cartilage, as opposed to a 25-year-old, whose body is made up primarily of bone, causing recovery to be more painful. Even so, I was only in the hospital for 6 days, and I was able to get back to school (medication-free) within 30 days of the surgery.

Aside from being a student, I’m a musician, and over the years, my experiences have inspired me to write several songs, one of which is called “South Georgia Pine”—this video shows footage of me leaving Emory a few months after my last surgery.

I’m incredibly grateful to my family, and to all of the Emory doctors and nurse technicians who have supported me and helped me along on this journey to recovery.

Overcoming A-Fib at Emory


My name is Bill Hughes. I’m 73 years of age, and I’ve lived in West Point, Georgia for 25 years. For 35 years, I was employed by Neptune Technology Group, a company that manufactures and distributes water meters and automatic meter reading systems. When I retired in 2000, I was the national sales manager for water distribution. Now, I work as a consultant. I’m married, and I have two children and two grandchildren.

I first came to Emory Heart and Vascular in January of this year. Prior to this, I’d been seeing a cardiologist for about two and a half years for what they call “a-fib”, or atrial fibrillation. My heart was beating out of rhythm, and the situation was worsening. Despite all of my heart regulation medications, my heart just couldn’t stay in rhythm.

At one point, I was hospitalized for about three days while the doctors administered a very strong heart-regulating drug. Unfortunately, my body just wouldn’t accept it, and I had several unpleasant side effects from it. And still, the medication wasn’t keeping me in rhythm.

When you suffer from A-fib, you basically feel horrible the majority of the time. You lose all of your energy and strength, and feel as though you can hardly do anything—it’s as though you just exist. Sufficed to say, it was incredibly depressing for me. After dealing with A-fib for two and a half years, I had forgotten what it felt like to feel normal.

At that point, my cardiologist recommended Dr. DeLurgio at Emory, and suggested that he examine my case in order to pinpoint what type of procedure would improve my condition. I was concerned that it would be difficult to schedule an appointment with a heart doctor, but the folks at Emory were able to see me right away.

After he performed a thorough examination, Dr. DeLurgio informed me that my A-fib condition was a fairly severe case, and decided that I needed to have radiofrequency ablation. I had three procedures between January and March. During the first procedure I had some bleeding, so we had to stop the surgery. A few weeks later, they performed the second ablation, this time with much better results. Although I was feeling better than I had in a long time, I went back into the hospital a third time because I was experiencing what they call a “flutter”. The doctors determined that they needed to go back in one more time and fix whatever circuitry wasn’t working properly. This was completed in March, and was a total success.

I really appreciated how Dr. DeLurgio explained the ablation procedure beforehand and set the right expectations with me. In the beginning, he let me know that I may require more than one ablation procedure due to the severity and complexity of my case. From the start, I never doubted him or had any concerns.

Everyone at Emory treated me as though my case was very special. The nurses and physician’s assistants did a wonderful job of preparing me for the surgery. At the hospital, from the time I checked in to the time I left, everything went incredibly smoothly. I feel very fortunate to have been at Emory and to have had Dr. DeLurgio as my doctor.

Now, I’m feeling better every day, and I no longer have to take nearly as much medication, which is a huge advantage. I’m 73 years young and back in the gym, back on the golf course, and life is good again.

From Dr. DeLurgio:

Mr. Hughes represents a case of a patient with “permanent” atrial fibrillation. This is a more severe and far-progressed variety. Typically, treatment options are limited. Using advanced techniques, however, we were able to achieve excellent results while avoiding major surgical intervention. It is very gratifying to see how much improvement in his quality life Mr. Hughes has gained.

About David DeLurgio, MD:

Dr. DeLurgio has been practicing medicine at Emory since 1996. His specialties include Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Electrophysiology, and Cardiac Electrophysiology. Additionally, his areas of clinical interest include arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation and ablation therapy, prevention of sudden cardiac death, and treatment of heart failure with medical devices. Dr. DeLurgio holds organizational leadership memberships with the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Physicians, the Heart Failure Society, and the Heart Rhythm Society.

A Look at Causes & Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib)


In our last post, Dr. Langberg defined Atrial Fibrillation, or A-fib, as the quivering of the two upper chambers of the heart resulting from disorganized electrical activity, and the most common heart rhythm conditions requiring treatment. Together, Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown perform more than 3,600 electrophysiology procedures per year, including diagnosis and treatment procedures for A-fib. In this post, I’ll examine causes of A-fib and discuss how we diagnose it.

It’s crucial that we identify potential causes of A-fib in order to determine the best approach to treatment. Although we can’t always find the specific trigger, certain pre-existing heart and lung conditions are the most common causes. These conditions include:

-      Thyroid conditions

-      Obesity

-      Obstructive sleep apnea

-      Hypertension (high blood pressure)

-      Coronary artery disease

-      Heart valve disease

-      Heart surgery

-      Chronic lung disease

-      Heart failure

-      Cardiomyopathy (disease in which the heart muscle is weakened)

-      Congenital heart disease

-      Pulmonary embolism (blood clot to the lungs)

Less common causes of A-Fib include hyperthyroidism, pericarditis and viral infections.

In at least 10% of cases, we’re unable to find underlying heart disease or lung conditions. In these instances, A-fib may be related to alcohol, excessive caffeine use, stress, certain drugs, electrolyte or metabolic imbalances, or severe infections. It’s important to note that the risk of A-fib increases with age, particularly after age 60.

Next—how do we diagnose Atrial Fibrillation? There are a variety of methods, but our initial diagnosis begins with a conversation. We ask you about your medical history, including your health habits and symptoms, which may include fatigue, palpitations, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or dizziness. We also ask about your family history, and then perform physical exams and conduct appropriate tests and procedures. One of the most useful tests is an electrocardiogram (EKG), a painless procedure that records the heart’s electrical activity. With an EKG, we can determine how fast your heart is beating, whether its rhythm is steady or irregular, how strong the electrical signals are when they pass through your heart, as well as how long it takes these signals to reach each section of your heart.

In our next Heart & Vascular post, we’ll explore treatment options for A-Fib at Emory, including innovative therapies and clinical trials.

For more information about the Emory Atrial Fibrillation Program, or to schedule an appointment, please call Emory HealthConnectionSM at 404-778-7777 or 1-800-75-EMORY.

Are you concerned that you may have A-fib? If you have questions or comments about A-fib diagnosis, please let me know in the comments section below.

About Michael Lloyd, MD:

Dr. Lloyd began practicing medicine at Emory in 2007—he specializes in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, and Cardiac Electrophysiology. His areas of clinical interest and research include arrhythmias, electrophysiology lab, and pacemaker. Dr. Lloyd’s organizational leadership memberships include the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the Heart Rhythm Society.

Defining Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, is the most common irregular heart rhythm, or cardiac arrhythmia in the United States. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, approximately two million Americans suffer from A-fib, which results when multiple circuits of disorganized electrical activity in the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) take over the organized electrical activity normally generated by the heart’s sinus node. This produces a fibrillating, or quivering of the atria, as opposed to a regular heartbeat.

Although A-fib isn’t directly life threatening, it’s often debilitating, as it produces a fast, irregular pulse that can cause fatigue and contribute to additional heart problems over time, such as congestive heart failure. Other symptoms include palpitations, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or dizziness. In many cases, A-fib greatly increases the risk of stroke; consequently, patients are often placed on blood thinners.

Just a few years ago, patients suffering from this condition were informed that they’d have to learn to live with it. However, increasing numbers of people suffering from A-fib can now be treated or even cured, thanks to innovative therapies and procedures available through The Emory Heart & Vascular Center.

Now that we’re able to successfully treat atrial fibrillation, we’re greatly improving the quality of life for our patients, reducing the number of medications they have to take, and limiting the amount of hospital trips they have to make.

Our next Heart & Vascular post will touch on the diagnosis of A-fib and arrhythmias in general.

Do you have any questions or thoughts about atrial fibrillation? If so, be sure to let me know in the comments.

About Jonathan Langberg, MD:

Dr. Langberg is the Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at Emory University Hospital, as well as a professor of Internal Medicine. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, and Cardiac Electrophysiology. Dr. Langberg is a pioneer in the field of catheter ablation of arrhythmias and has published over 150 articles related to his field.