Pioneers in Comprehensive Treatment
Cardiovascular Institute of the South provides an extensive roster of cardiovascular services administered by a team of experienced medical professionals. As a world-leader in preventing, detecting and treating cardiovascular diseases, our broad range of skills and services allows us to address the needs of the community within our primary areas of focus. Our commitment to patient-centered care and advancements in new technology means that, regardless of diagnosis, each case is thoroughly reviewed and all treatment options are considered.
Primary Areas of Focus
Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The key to lowering your risk is prevention, early detection and advanced treatment.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease refers to a plaque buildup or blockage inside of one or more of the arteries that feed your heart. This buildup is known as atherosclerosis and is caused by hardening of the artery wall or fatty particles sticking to the artery wall. This buildup can reduce the blood flow to the heart muscle. As a result, your heart may not get all of the oxygen-rich blood it needs. Atherosclerosis can occur in any or all of the three main arteries of the heart: the right coronary artery, the left anterior descending artery, or the left circumflex artery. Branches of the main arteries may also be affected.
If heart disease runs in your family, you may inherit a tendency for the disease. It can also be caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices.
Risk Factors of Heart Disease:
- high blood pressure
- cigarette smoking
- high fat diet
- being overweight
- lack of exercise
- emotional stress
Heart disease can cause angina, which is pressure, tightness or pain in your lower chest, upper abdomen, arm, neck, back or jaw. It can also be an indigestion type of pain occurring alone or in combination with any of the above. If not treated, heart disease can lead to a heart attack. Sometimes you may not have symptoms to warn you, so it is important to tell your doctor if heart disease runs in your family. Avoiding or controlling other risk factors may reduce your risk for the disease.
During your visit, your doctor will have a detailed discussion with you concerning your medical, social and family history. It is important that you describe any symptoms you may be having. A complete physical exam along with diagnostic testing also helps a physician to diagnose heart disease. This testing may include a nuclear scan, CT angiography and/or a heart catheterization.
The type of treatment(s) used for heart disease is based on the findings of the physical exam and diagnostic testing, along with information about symptoms and personal history.
Treatment Options for Heart Disease:
- medication management
- angioplasty or stenting (minally-invasive approaches)
- bypass surgery
- improving diet and lifestyle choices
Carotid Artery Disease
CIS physicians have pioneered the use of carotid angioplasty and stenting to treat carotid artery disease. This minimally-invasive treatment method is a groundbreaking alternative to surgical options that previously prevailed as the only source of treatment. Our physicians evaluate each patient on a case-by case basis to determine the best course of treatment.
What is Carotid Artery Disease?
Carotid Artery Disease refers to blockages in the carotid arteries due to plaque buildup. Carotid arteries are blood vessels located in the sides of the neck that supply blood to the brain. Blockages in these arteries hinder blood flow to the brain, which can cause brain damage and lead to a stroke. What causes it? Plaque buildup in the arteries causes carotid artery disease. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium and other tissues which block the artery, therefore restricting blood flow. Risk factors of carotid artery disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, personal or family history of cardiovascular disease, smoking, diabetes, increasing age, obesity, and physical inactivity.
What are the symptoms?
In its early stages, carotid artery disease does not show any symptoms. That is why the first sign of the disease is typically a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), caused by a lack of blood to the brain. Signs of stroke or TIA include sudden numbness in the face or on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking, dizziness, blurred vision, or severe headache.
How will my doctor know if I have Carotid Artery Disease?
Your cardiologist may order an ultrasound to test for Carotid Artery Disease. A carotid ultrasound is a painless test to show how well the blood is flowing in the carotid arteries. A physician may also perform a computerized tomography angiography (CTA), which involves using contrast dye to highlight the arteries so that a CT scanner can gather x-ray images of the vessels.
How is it treated?
If blockages are detected, treatment will be advised based on the severity of the blockages. Your physician may recommend a blood-thinning medication to help prevent clots. To treat more severe blockages, your physician may suggest a carotid angioplasty, where a balloon-like device is inserted into the artery through a catheter. The device expands and releases a device called a stent to keep the artery open.
What can I do to lessen my risk of Carotid Artery Disease?
- Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly
- Limit fat, cholesterol, and sodium in your diet
- Quit smoking
- Limit your alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks a day
- Exercise regularly, about 30 minutes a day
Cardiac electrophysiologists at CIS monitor the electrical activity of the heart and treat patients who experience arrhythmia- an irregular heartbeat.
Electrophysiology refers to the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
Your heart rate is controlled by a natural electrical system that tells your heart when to beat. Electrical signals usually travel through the heart in a regular pattern. If that electrical system is not functioning properly, your heart rate can be too slow, too fast or simply uneven. This may be a consistent problem or it may occur occasionally. If your heart is beating at an improper or uneven rate, you may feel symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion or fainting spells. It is likely that these symptoms are more noticeable when you are physically active.
Electrophysiology studies test the electrical activity of your heart to find where an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) is coming from. These results can help you and your doctor determine the best course of treatment. These studies take place in a special room called an electrophysiology (EP) lab or catheterization (cath) lab while you are mildly sedated.
Sometimes an irregular heart beat is controlled with medication. In other situations, a pacemaker or an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) is implanted. These devices keep track of your heart rate and, if necessary, generates a signal that helps the heart to beat at the correct pace.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a hardening of the arteries due to build-up or blockage in any area of the body other than the heart. The disease most commonly affects the legs, but it can also occur in the kidneys, neck or arms. These blockages keep extremities and organs from receiving oxygen-rich blood. Just like clogged arteries in the heart, blocked arteries in the legs raise the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes. PAD is a common and treatable disease, but it is often unrecognized as its main symptom of leg cramps is regarded by many as an inevitable consequence of aging. Ultimately, PAD can reduce mobility and be fatal if left untreated.
Many people lose limbs each year due to peripheral arterial blockage, but we believe that early diagnosis and treatment can prevent disability and save limbs and lives. Through the development of non-surgical treatments and the advancements of leading edge of technology, patients can be assured that each case is thoroughly reviewed and all available treatment options are considered.
Heart valve disease occurs if one or more of the heart's valves don't work well. In order to keep the blood flowing forward during its journey through the heart, there are valves between each of the heart’s pumping chambers. The heart has four valves:
- tricuspid valve - located between the right atrium and the right ventricle
- pulmonary (or pulmonic) valve - located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery
- mitral valve - located between the left atrium and the left ventricle
- aortic valve - located between the left ventricle and the aorta
These valves have tissue flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. The flaps make sure blood flows in the right direction through your heart's four chambers and to the rest of your body.
When heart valves become damaged or diseased, they may not function properly. When one or more valves becomes stenotic (hardened), the heart muscle must work harder to pump the blood through the valve. Some reasons why heart valves become stenotic include infection and aging. If one or more valves become insufficient (leaky), blood leaks backwards which means that less blood is pumped in the proper direction. The physician may decide that the diseased valve(s) needs to be surgically repaired or replaced.
Newer, minimally-invasive techniques have been developed to replace or repair heart valves such as TAVR (transaortic valve replacement). These procedures, in which the incision is much smaller, often mean less pain and shorter hospital stays. Valvuloplasty is another method that may be used to treat valve stenosis in some cases.The diseased valve may be repaired using a ring to support a person’s own valve, or the entire valve may be removed and replaced by an artificial valve. Artificial valves may be mechanical or tissue.
About 15 percent of adults in America have venous disease, which is caused by abnormal veins. When vein vessels become damaged or weak, blood flows backwards and causes the veins to stretch, swell and twist. Venous disease, however, may not present itself until leg pain or skin problems emerge.
Symptoms of Venous Disease:
- Swelling or heaviness in legs
- Leg pain or cramping
- Visible varicose or spider veins
- Discoloration of skin
- Dry or weeping eczema
- Leg ulcers
- Restless legs
One of the most common and visible signs of venous disease is spider veins – the small, purple or blue clusters of veins on the leg. Spider veins typically do not cause discomfort, but if they become painful it is important to meet with a physician who is qualified in the diagnosis and treatment of venous disease. Varicose veins are larger, bluish veins that may appear enlarged.
Venous disease can progressively get worse over time due to the pressure created by the backflow of blood in the legs. This may lead to additional spider and varicose veins, and in some cases can lead to swelling and venous ulcers at the lower calf and ankle. Even if only spider veins are present, you should consult a vein specialist to determine the problem so that it can be treated.
Vein Center Locations
CIS operates seven vein centers including locations in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Houma, Zachary, Thibodaux and Opelousas. If you think you may have venous disease, call the location nearest you to schedule a consultation.