Heart rehab

UMH offering cardiac rehabilitation program

Uvalde Memorial Hospital’s rehabilitation department and cardiopulmonary department have teamed up to offer cardiac rehabilitation services.

Cardiac rehab is a program that uses exercises provided by the rehab department with a specific focus on the heart.

“When we stop to consider that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s easy to realize why cardiac rehab is an important service to offer this community,” said Felisha Tinker, UMH cardiopulmonary manager.

The exercises are completed with a physical therapist all while having the heart monitored on a telemetry unit that transmits the patient’s heart rate and rhythm to a computer that is being watched by a certified respiratory technician skilled in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS).

The new program is under the medical direction of Dr. Shawn Ragbir and Dr. Andrzej Stypko.

Typical diagnosis that qualify for cardiac rehab are myocardial infarction (heart attack), exercise-induced stable chest pain, angioplasty with or without stent placement, cardiac artery bypass grafting, cardiac valve disease, and heart failure.

Patients who qualify for the cardiac rehab program may sign-up after their physician completes a referral.

Ragbir and Stypko, who specialize in cardiology and wound/diabetic care, respectively, will review and sign off on a plan of care. The initial visit for a cardiac rehab patient includes an assessment on diet, previous activity level, lifestyle, and potential psychological issues that might prevent future success.

“One of the goals of cardiac rehab is to take a holistic approach to the patient and address any potential needs that might interfere with long-term success,” Tinker said. “It does the patient no good if they have a bypass surgery and then go back to their previous habits; it just puts them back at square one.”

Each session is designed specifically for the individual patient. The patient’s plan of care takes into consideration his or her age, diagnosis and activity level. Generally, new patient intakes are done on Thursday and regular sessions are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Appointments are 30-60 minutes long and patients are seen 36 times over a three-month period.

During each appointment, the patient’s blood pressure, oxygenation, and heart rate are monitored continuously. The respiratory technician watches to ensure the heart rates remain at 50 to 75-percent of the patient’s maximum capacity and can identify any irregular heart rhythms.

“The only way to truly get better is to be compliant with the treatments,” said Matthew Hughes, UMH director of rehabilitation. “By having a local option, we hope that it will encourage that compliance and foster commitment for those patients who would otherwise have to travel into San Antonio.”

Hughes said travel hardships can be a deterrent to maintaining a routine exercise regimen.

“We want to change that with offering those services needed here in their hometown,” he said.

Patients who stay faithful to a cardiac rehab program show reduced risk for reoccurrence and reduced mortality rates. 

“We are a small, rural community but fortunate to have a regional hospital that provides services not only to our Uvalde family, but also beyond a 100-mile radius to the five other counties we serve,” Hughes said. “A specialized service like cardiac rehab previously required an individual to trek to San Antonio and this is the perfect example of a specialized service with local convenience.”

The team began seeing patients in mid-January and is working towards a full patient load in February, just in time to celebrate American Heart Month.

The preceding information was submitted by Karla Radicke, communications officer for Uvalde Memorial Hospital.

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