Chesco principal tells heartbreak of son's drug use and death

RICK DUNLAP

With heart blockages there is a "time issue," according to Fischer. "The longer the blood flow stops, the more heart muscle dies."

"Within three to four hours of a heart attack we can save a good amount of heart muscle that would normally die off because of lack of oxygen," said Fischer.

Since August, Phoenixville Hospital's Cardiac Cath Lab has performed 308 catheter insertions and 81 angioplasties, while surgeons have performed 45 of the less common open heart surgeries.

Fischer performs angioplasties using a stent that acts like a balloon and corrects both completely closed heart arteries and those sealed as much as 80 to 90 percent.

Access is gained through the femoral artery located in the groin area or the prachic artery of the arm. Fischer said that use of the larger femoral artery is preferred except when a patient has no pulse, suffers from previous scar tissue or is extremely obese.

Most patients have come to the hospital with symptoms of chest pain, or angina pectoris, caused by a blockage of blood flow that requires more oxygen.

Fischer removes those obstructions, which can be caused by both mental and physical stress. Some patients describe the pain as "an elephant sitting on their chest."

Roughly half of those referred to Fischer have no obvious symptoms other than what Fischer describe as "vague." Symptoms include becoming sick to the stomach, feeling "washed out," or what is described as "can't get around."

Interventional cardiology procedures last from 20 minutes to two hours while the is patient sedated and at the patients option able to speak and watch the screens during the procedure. Depending on the severity, angioplasty patients often are released the next day while heart attack survivors usually spend three days in the hospital.

Not all procedures need immediate attention, but Fischer was careful to say several times, "Time is muscle."

He said that Phoenixville Hospital's greatest strength compared to hospitals located in the citiy of Philadelphia is the time factor. He said that Phoenixville Hospital has 95 percent of the equipment used downtown. "We're more convenient and we have everything unless it becomes extremely fancy," said Fisher.

Fischer said that the stents are coated with the same medication given to organ transplant recipients to reduce rejection.

Fischer laughed when he said that those who don't like the sound of a dentist's drill wouldn't care for the similar-sounding, high-tech rotablator. The diamond studded rotablator spins at 180,000 revolutions per minute.

Fischer said that all his work was only temporizing solutions. "All you do is get rid of the worst problems," he said. Long-term causes of heart disease are high cholesterol, smoking, high blood and diabetes.

Healthy Living from Phoenixville Hospital is a monthy feature.

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