Leading Innovation

Finley Focus from the President - Bringing Life Saving Heart Care to Dubuque

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According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 2,150 Americans die every day from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases - this amounts to one person every 40 seconds falling victim to these diseases. 

On top of that, just over 85 million Americans carry out their daily lives with some form of cardiovascular disease or after-effects of a stroke. Fighting the persistent progression and evolution of heart disease is an ongoing battle in health care. However, because today's technology is quickly growing as innovative as it is aggressive, health care workers are able to work towards ensuring their patients don't become another statistic. 

Clarence Salow, 84, of Earlville, Iowa, happens to be one of those patients who only recently avoided becoming a statistic this past February. As the first patient in the Dubuque area to undergo an advanced atherectomy procedure, Salow quickly became a part of Dubuque's fight against cardiovascular disease. 

It was in 1980 when Salow experienced his first heart attack. After a successful bypass surgery, life simply went back to normal for the then 49-year-old. He married his wife, Phyllis, three years later at a little brown church in Nashua, Iowa, and when he wasn't busy working as a handyman, he spent his time fixing motors on stock cars that his son raced. Life simply went on. It wasn't until this past February, 35 years later, that Clarence experienced another scare with his heart. Only this time, things were different. 

"No chest pain; I just come out of the bathroom, and walked to the kitchen and it hit me then - just a shortness of breath that kept getting worse and worse," says Salow, "That was the real battle; just trying to breathe." The Korean War Veteran and retired John Deere employee was rushed from Manchester's Regional Medical Center to UnityPoint Health Finley Hospital, where he was taken under the care of UnityPoint Clinic Cardiologist, Dr. Tauseef Khan, at Finley's Heart and Vascular Center. 

"Clarence's case was one where we knew a different approach needed to be made - heavy calcification in two of his arteries was limiting blood from traveling to his heart," explains Dr. Khan, " Removing the calcium first before coronary stent placement was the best choice for Clarence as a high risk, post-bypass patient." This option required an advanced procedure - an atherectomy; the first of its kind performed in Dubuque. 

Unlike procedures that push plaque against the artery wall, such as a balloon angioplasty  and stent placement, this minimally invasive procedure uses a small rotational device, inserted in the patient's artery via catheter, to cut plaque and calcium completely from the artery wall - removing it entirely and allowing for successful placement of the coronary stent. 

Initially developed as a procedure used to reduce the occurrence of restenosis, or narrowing of the arteries, atherectomies have been proven to be most successful when paired with additional cardiovascular intervention practices, such as balloon angioplasties and stent placements. Procedures, such as angioplasties, continue to have a high success rate in over 90% of patients in need of coronary artery intervention. However, at times it takes additional progressive procedures - such as an atherectomy - to sustain the longevity of good health in patients and prevent them from experiencing recurring cardiovascular issues. 

Such advanced interventional procedures allow health care workers to continue providing the best possible outcome and coordinated care for every patient, every time. Finley's advanced cardiovascular procedures also include the first peripheral laser atherectomy in the Dubuque area, which was performed this past April; only one of many innovative technologies that will continue to grow with the development of Finley's Heart and Vascular Center in 2016.