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Over the last two years, Alvarado Hospital has made tremendous strides in the treatment of heart disease. The hospital’s cardiac specialists, surgeons and staff are committed to bringing the latest research-based diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical services to the San Diego community.

Here’s a peek at some of the exciting, innovative techniques doctors are currently performing at Alvarado Hospital:

  • A minimally invasive procedure for patients with atrial fibrillation that helps prevent strokes and may ultimately replace blood-thinning medications.
  • A noninvasive technique that determines the amount of arterial plaque build-up in the heart.
  • A minimally invasive technique that places a tiny filter into a leg vein in order to prevent blood clots from traveling into the lungs.

A Regional Leader in Cardiac Care

Since opening in 1972, Alvarado Hospital has been a regional leader in providing cardiovascular services in the San Diego region. San Diego’s first open heart surgery was performed there 35 years ago.

Since then, tremendous advances in cardiovascular care have come from the use of interventional techniques. Many heart conditions that used to require open-heart surgery may now be corrected through catheters threaded through arteries into the heart. Interventional cardiologists use a tiny balloon, laser or drilling device inserted through the catheter to clear blockages. They may also insert stents—small, wire-mesh tubes—through the catheter to keep collapsed or narrowed arteries open.

Alvarado Hospital has been at the forefront of these advances in interventional cardiology:

  • Alvarado physicians performed the second angioplasty in San Diego.
  • Alvarado was the first hospital in San Diego to perform laser coronary angioplasty.
  • Alvarado was one of the first hospitals in San Diego to use valvuloplasty, a balloon technique for opening obstructed heart valves.
  • Alvarado is one of the nation’s leading centers for extracting old pacemaker leads by using laser technology.

Cardiologist Dr. Fernando Zamudio, who directs the hospital’s cardiology services, has worked with Alvarado Hospital since 1974. He said many open-heart procedures have been replaced with minimally invasive techniques. He added that it is beneficial for patients to have local access to such highly specialized care.

"Fifty years ago, patients used to have to travel across country to centers in order to receive advanced cardiology procedures,” he said. "Having these advanced services available at the community hospital level performed by highly trained and experienced physicians is a tremendous advantage to our patients, because of the added benefit of family support.”

Upgraded Cardiac Cath Lab and Interventional Unit

The recently upgraded cardiac cath lab and interventional unit at Alvarado Hospital feature the latest equipment for treating cardiovascular disease. According to cardiologist Maurice Buchbinder, MD, Alvarado is participating in clinical research protocols for the evaluation of next-generation technology and investigational devices.

Advanced interventional techniques are available for:

  • Congenital heart problems — such as atrial septal defect, which is associated with migraines and unexplained strokes.
  • Transcatheter valve therapies — for the repair or replacement of heart valves.
  • Electrophysiology — correction of abnormal heart rhythms through ablation, pacemakers or implantable defibrillators.
  • Endovascular procedures — a new branch of cardiology providing treatment for aortic aneurysms and peripheral vascular disease, including carotid, renal artery and peripheral arterial (leg) stents.

"Over the last year, the hospital has enhanced the facilities and the type of procedures that are performed at Alvarado Hospital,” Dr. Buchbinder said. "A variety of clinical protocols dealing with coronary and valvular disease entities are now in place. Patients who are interested in seeing if they may benefit from state-of-the-art, minimally invasive approaches should contact us.”

State-of-the-Art Care For Heart Attack

Alvarado Hospital is one of San Diego’s designated STEMI (heart attack) receiving centers. This designation is only given to hospitals that prove they meet stringent standards of getting patients with this type of heart attack from the ER to the cardiac catheterization lab within 90 minutes. Most STEMI patients at Alvarado receive interventional care within 60 minutes, clearly exceeding the national guidelines.

Alvarado is staffed with on-call cardiologists and experienced cardiac nurses 24 hours a day. The hospital offers a full range of cardiac services, including supervised cardiac rehabilitation.

DID YOU KNOW.... A Prescription For Prevention

Although the advances in cardiovascular care are exciting, Dr. Zamudio said the value of prevention could not be overestimated. The sharp global increase of obesity, plus an aging population, makes a healthy lifestyle more important than ever.

Dr. Zamudio’s prescription:

  • Get moving — even a 20-minute walk three or four times a week helps.
  • Avoid processed foods — eat more fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Lose weight if necessary —especially excess weight in the abdomen.
  • Don’t smoke or use illegal drugs — tobacco, cocaine and amphetamines are particularly damaging to the heart and arteries.
  • Keep track of your numbers — blood pressure, the "good” and "bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Work with your primary care physician to control them, if needed.

"The medicines we have now are terrific, and we are doing all these great technological things, but lifestyle also plays an important role in living a longer and healthier life,” he said.