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things of the heart

This story was originally published in the Fall 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters.


In this article:

  • Providence patient finds new breath with advanced heart surgery.

  • Providence St. Mary’s EP Lab is finding ways to treat patients with heart rhythm disorders.

  • Dr. Mandapti discusses new treatments that offer hope for people with heart disease.

One of the main goals of Providence Health System is to constantly offer the latest technologies and procedures to its patients. Thanks to the hospital’s fundraising foundation, this commitment has been fulfilled once again with the new electrophysiology (EP) laboratory. The venture is a partnership between Providence St. Mary and Loma Linda University Medical Center. Cardiac electrophysiologists Ravi Mandapati, MD, and Rahul Bhardwaj, MD, were the first doctors to perform catheter ablation procedures in the new lab, using its state-of-the-art equipment.

The primary use of the EP lab will be to treat patients with heart rhythm problems that may arise from both the upper and lower chambers of the heart. These include supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), atrial fibrillation (afib for short), and ventricular arrhythmias that originate from the lower chambers. Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm condition that most often results in hospitalizations. “A large majority of ablation procedures at St. Mary’s will be for patients with atrial fibrillation. We will also perform ablations on patients with other heart rhythm problems,” says Dr. Mandapati. “During the ablation procedure, we treat the problem areas in order to stop or prevent the irregularity. Catheter ablations for atrial fibrillation are 70% to 80% effective and for SVT they are 98% effective. Some patients may need an additional procedure if there is a recurrence.

A problem solved after two decades of pain

In August, 47-year-old Christian Lepe had frequent bouts of rapid heartbeat and dizziness. He made several trips to the emergency room, where medication was administered to stop his arrhythmia. Lepe says her symptoms actually started nearly 20 years ago, but her condition was never properly diagnosed. A friend eventually recommended that she see Venkat Devineni, MD, a cardiologist in Providence St. Mary. It was Dr. Devineni who explained to Lepe that he had SVT and informed him that Dr. Mandapati would be the best choice to perform an ablation.

“The way Dr. Mandapati explained the procedure and reassured me of the results gave me the ultimate confidence to continue,” says Lepe. “After all, it was my heart he was going to snoop. I only have one. His confidence and reassurance were impressive. “His options at that time,” says Dr. Mandapati, “were basically lifelong medications that may or may not work and may potentially have side effects versus a procedure that might fix the problem.

Following the success of the operation, he has only a 2% chance that his SVT will reproduce. Lepe is extremely satisfied with the result. He was released the same day and felt very little discomfort. “There hasn’t really been a slowdown. The next day, I was walking on the beach with my family without any complications,” says Lepe. He jokes: ‘I honestly believed the doctor lied to me and just told me I had a procedure. I didn’t feel like I had just had an operation.

More services on the horizon

EP lab doctors are currently performing two procedures a day, each lasting a few hours. The goal, especially amid the COVID pandemic, is to send patients home the same day. “In the future, we will also perform the Watchman procedure. This involves the catheterization of a device in the upper left chamber to protect patients from stroke,” says Dr. Mandapati.

In addition to advanced technology, the big benefit for High Desert communities is that these procedures are now done locally, so patients don’t have to travel to other facilities. Dr. Mandapati emphasizes, “The most important thing patients with heart rhythm disorders need to know is that we provide high-quality, complex care right here in the community. Lepe considers himself lucky and is very grateful for these services and the staff at Providence St. Mary. “The whole experience was truly a blessing. But the biggest advantage? I am still here with my family.

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This information is not intended to replace professional medical care. Always follow the instructions of your healthcare professional.

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