Salem Health ahead of the big A-fib curve

If you’ve ever raced up a flight of stairs or chased a tennis ball, you know what a racing heart feels like.

But for the 2.6 million Americans with atrial fibrillation (A-fib), a racing heart happens without warning and can be dangerous — even deadly. It’s a major cause of stroke and the fastest-growing heart rhythm disease in the country.

That’s the bad news. The good news?

Salem Health and local cardiologists are not only treating A-fib; they're often fixing it.

Salem Health Cardiology Services Director Brandon Schmidgall says that thanks to a large hospital Foundation donation and collaboration with independent cardiologists, Salem Health has added the latest heart monitoring and treatment equipment, will soon add another surgery suite — and more cardiologists to keep up with demand.

The first option to curb A-fib is usually medication to control heart rate and/or rhythm. If that fails, a non-invasive procedure called an “ablation” is done by an electrophysiologist (a physician who specializes in these procedures) in a catheterization lab.  Using a guided catheter, physicians destroy (ablate) the tissue that causes irregular rhythm, thus restoring the heart to a normal rhythm.

More info: Patients talk about their excellent a-fib treatment results

“A-fib treatment is among the most technically advanced and complicated procedures we perform in the cath lab,” Schmidgall said, noting that physicians are precisely guided to the misfiring heart tissue sites by a digital map, where they can burn (with radio-frequency) or freeze tissue (with cryoablation), often a combination of both.

The best right here in Salem

To manage the growing service, Schmidgall hired Valli Brunken, who brought years of critical care nursing and project management experience.

“If you have a procedure here, about 10 experts surround you, including two MDs, even reps from our equipment vendors,” she said, noting that technologists have on average 10 to 20 years’ experience. “We use a Clinical Integration Network, where rather than compete with each other, providers collaborate for the best outcomes, which results in the best care. You won’t be in better hands.”

Learn more Feb. 20

To learn more about how Salem Health is leading the way with A-fib treatment, attend I Got Rhythm, a presentation by Oregon Heart Center cardiologist Matthew Fedor, MD, on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Salem Health CHEC.

The free event is open to all in recognition of National Heart Month and will include booths and displays, wellness information and a heart-healthy cooking demonstration. 

Register to attend by calling the CHEC at 503-814-2432.