New Institute for Congestive Heart Failure helps keep patients out of hospital

Above: Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital has opened its new Institute for Congestive Heart Failure that is being touted as one of the nation’s first of its kind for its comprehensive, patient-centered care. (Left to right: Dr. Kris Vijay, medical director of the Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital Institute for Congestive Heart Failure; Patrick Smith, Heart Failure Nurse Navigator; and Tammy Querrey, acute nurse practitioner.) Photo credit: Abrazo Community Health Network. Business News | 11 Dec, 2017 |

Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital has opened its new Institute for Congestive Heart Failure that is being touted as one of the nation’s first of its kind for its comprehensive, patient-centered care.

With a goal of keeping patients out of the hospital, the Institute for Congestive Heart Failure encompasses everything from prevention and early detection using new diagnostics to an array of treatment options, including optimized medications and revolutionary, minimally invasive procedures that help the heart work better. 

As the institute’s new medical director, Dr. Kris Vijay leads a multi-disciplinary team of caregivers – from nurses and pharmacists to dietitians and nephrologists (specialists in treating kidney disease).

While heart failure often requires frequent admissions and readmissions to the hospital, Vijay is optimistic about helping patients manage their heart disease to avoid hospitalization. 

“There are many myths surrounding the condition,” he said. “ Heart failure conjures up a thought that death is imminent, but nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, people with heart failure can enjoy long and healthy lives, thanks in part to advancements in cardiovascular care.” 

About 5.7 million Americans are living with heart failure, caused by a build-up of fluids in various parts of the body, according to the American Heart Association. However, that number could triple among seniors during the next four decades, based on recent findings from a 14-year study conducted by the National Institute on Aging and the Icelandic Heart Association. 

“The study speaks volumes about the need to take better care of ourselves, particularly as we age,” Vijay said.

Among the factors contributing to heart failure are coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and chronic kidney diseases, which block the coronary arteries leading to heart failure. In addition, conditions such as cancer, treatment with some cancer medications and a few other toxic triggers can directly affect the heart muscle, leading to congestive heart failure.

At all Abrazo facilities, research, innovation and education are driving factors, with the Institute serving as a training ground for caregivers and the community. 

One such procedure that is keeping patients out of the hospital is called CardioMEMS.

“It’s a simple procedure where we implant an electronic sensor, the size of a paperclip, through a catheter in the pulmonary artery that carries blood from the heart to the lungs,” Vijay said. “This helps us detect small changes in heart pressure.” 

At home, the patient uses a portable electronic unit and a special pillow containing an antenna to take daily sensor readings. The readings, which are wirelessly transmitted through a secure website, allow us to make any necessary modifications to medications.

In addition to the procedures, the new Institute has five outpatient treatment areas where caregivers can remove excess salt and water from the body.

“Fluid overload is responsible for 90 percent of hospitalizations for congestive heart failure, but in our outpatient treatment areas, patients are treated with ultrafiltration and aquapheresis, a new medical technology that removes excess salt and water from the body within a few hours,” said Patrick Smith, a registered nurse and the Institute’s nurse navigator. 

In many cases, doctors and hospitals treat heart and kidney conditions separately even though one can exacerbate the other. At the dedicated Cardiorenal Center at Arizona Heart Hospital, Abrazo caregivers address both conditions as one.

The Institute for Congestive Heart Failure is one of six specialty cardiac and vascular institutes being created by Abrazo Arizona Heart Hospital. The hospital also is involved in more than two dozen national clinical trials on a variety of heart and vascular conditions, and serves as a training ground for cardiologists throughout the country.        

Aside from his duties at the hospital, Vijay lends his vast clinical skills and experience to training programs and workshops for students, residents, fellows, other physicians and caregivers locally, nationally and internationally. 

For more information, call 844-813-5954 or go to AbrazoHealth.com/CongestiveHeartHealth.

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