Winter 2024 Livewell

3/19/2024 8:30 AM

Your Heart Is in Our Hands

From advanced imaging to comprehensive heart attack care, the cardiac team at CHRISTUS St. Vincent offers a complete array of cardiac services to meet every need.

At CHRISTUS St. Vincent, our experienced team of cardiac experts is dedicated to helping your heart be as healthy as it can be. This commitment to excellence has been nationally recognized, with the team receiving several accolades from Healthgrades for 2024.

“We are deeply committed to providing excellent coronary intervention and cardiology services to our patients,” says Timberly Miller, MBA-HM, BSN, RN, director of cardiology & pulmonology/intensivists at CHRISTUS St. Vincent. “Our highly skilled and experienced health care professionals, including cardiologists, nurses and support staff specializing in cardiovascular medicine, complete rigorous training and stay updated with the latest advancements in the field to provide our patients with the best possible care.”

CHRISTUS St. Vincent is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and advanced medical technologies that enable accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and optimal patient outcomes. “We are home to the only cardiac catheterization lab in Northern New Mexico and offer advanced imaging systems and other cutting-edge equipment,” Timberly says. “Having these resources allows us to perform precise and timely interventions and procedures, reducing risks and improving patient recovery times.”


A Leader In Interventional Cardiology

If you have symptoms or are diagnosed with a heart condition, you might be referred to an interventional cardiologist, an expert in minimally invasive procedures to diagnose and treat certain types of heart conditions. These types of procedures are done with a thin tube called a catheter, which is inserted into a blood vessel through a tiny incision and guided to your heart. Cardiac catheterization is often used to diagnose heart conditions for patients who are showing symptoms of a problem. Cardiologists can use it to ensure heart valves are working properly or assess the coronary arteries to determine whether there are any blockages. They might also use ultrasound imaging or inject dye into the coronary arteries to determine whether there are any blockages.

In addition to diagnosis, cardiac catheterization is also used to repair heart problems. Common procedures include:

+ Balloon angioplasty. A surgeon passes a tiny balloon through a catheter and guides it to your heart, where the balloon inflates and opens a blocked or narrow artery, restoring blood flow.

+ Stenting. This is often done at the same time as a balloon angioplasty. The surgeon places a tiny wire mesh tube, called a stent, inside a clogged artery, helping the artery to stay open. When combined with angioplasty, the procedure is called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).


World-class Heart Care

When a heart attack happens, time is of the essence.

“We take a comprehensive approach when treating patients for a heart attack,” Timberly says. “This includes prompt recognition and diagnosis, rapid response and stabilization, cardiac catheterization procedures, medication management, monitoring, recovery, rehabilitation programs, and ongoing follow-up care.”

The first step in heart attack care is quickly recognizing and diagnosing the condition. The staff at the emergency department at CHRISTUS St. Vincent are highly training in recognizing the signs of a heart attack, and the ED features state-of-the-art diagnostic tools.

As soon as a heart attack is diagnosed, the team follows a rapid response protocol to minimize the time between a patient’s arrival at the ED and the start of treatment. This includes activating the cardiac catheterization lab team, which consists of interventional cardiologists as well as nurses and technologists who specialize in cardiac catheterization procedures. The team determines the best course of treatment, which is often PCI. The average time of the arrival of a patient to the time the procedure is done (also called “door- to-balloon time”) is 66 minutes — well below the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology’s recommended door- to-balloon time of less than 90 minutes.

After the initial treatment for a heart attack, recovery and rehabilitation become the main focus.

“The hospital provides a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program to improve patients’ cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of future heart problems and help them regain strength and confidence,” Timberly says. “This program includes supervised exercise sessions, education on heart-healthy lifestyle modifications, dietary counseling and emotional support through our weekly support group.”

In addition, the team emphasizes the importance of ongoing follow- up care after a heart attack, collaborating with patients to develop personalized plans. These may include regular checkups, medication management, and diagnostic tests or procedures when necessary.


Help For Heart Failure

Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart fails to pump enough blood for your body’s needs. While it doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped working, it is still a serious condition that requires timely care.

“We offer a comprehensive heart failure program that focuses on providing individualized care and helping patients manage their condition,” Timberly says. “The goal is to help patients avoid hospitalizations and readmissions by identifying the underlying causes of heart failure and developing effective treatment plans.”

Some of the ways the team treats heart failure include:

+ Advanced diagnostic testing. Tests such as echocardiograms, stress tests and other advanced cardiac imaging help physicians diagnose and determine the cause of heart failure.

+ Lifestyle modifications. The team also educates patients about healthy lifestyle changes necessary to manage heart failure through regular clinic visits, phone calls and a weekly cardiac support group.

+ Medication management. The team works closely with the Medication Management Clinic to ensure patients receive the appropriate medication and educates patients on the importance of proper adherence.

+ Monitoring and follow-up care. Patients with heart failure can participate in the cardiac rehabilitation program, and the team follows up with patients regularly for checkups, blood tests and other diagnostic testing to ensure treatment is working well.


Looking Ahead

The cardiac team is continually looking for ways to expand services and provide the highest quality of care to the community. Electrophysiologist Benjamin Remo, M.D., FACC, joined CHRISTUS St. Vincent in February 2023 and will be expanding the EP procedures he provides to diagnose and treat arrhythmia in the coming year. Also in 2024, satellite clinics will be added in remote areas of Northern New Mexico.

“CHRISTUS St. Vincent is also looking to add cardiac MRI and CT angiography, which can provide detailed insights into cardiac structure and function, aiding in precise treatment planning,” Timberly says. “We will continue to integrate advanced technologies and invest in tools that enable more accurate diagnosis and improved patient outcomes.”

To make an appointment with a cardiac specialist at CHRISTUS St. Vincent, visit


Keep Your Heart Strong

Having a healthy heart is a vital part of your overall wellness. To help keep this important muscle beating strong, follow these tips:

• Eat a heart-healthy diet. Make sure you eat plenty of fruit, veggies, whole grains and lean protein, and limit sodium and added sugars.

• Follow an exercise routine. Strive to get at least 150 minutes of moderate- intensity exercise every week.

• Maintain a healthy weight. Talk to your provider about starting a healthy weight-loss plan if you are overweight.

• Manage conditions. If you have been diagnosed with a health condition that raises your risk for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, follow your provider’s guidance and take medications as prescribed.

• Don’t smoke. If you smoke, talk to your provider about how you can quit

Contact your provider if you experience any of the following signs of a heart problem:

• Chest pain brought on by physical activity

• Dizziness and fainting

• Fast heartbeat

• Fatigue

• Pounding or pressure in the chest

• Shortness of breath that can cause anxiety

• Swelling in your foot, ankle, stomach or neck vein



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