Advice from our Cardiologists
We know our cardiovascular patients have questions about receiving treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. We sat down with Clay Warnick, MD, Medical Director for the Cardiovascular Program, Service Line Quality and Heart Failure, to get answers to some common concerns our providers have been hearing, and to get tips for you to stay well during this time.
You can view this conversation in the video below, or read the accompanying transcript.
How is Chester County Hospital caring for Cardiovascular patients during this time?
At this point we've decided to restratify our patients into three categories - A, B and C.
Category A patients are patients who are having symptoms that warrant being evaluated this particular week. They could be having decompensated congestive heart failure, active chest pain or arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation. We want to evaluate those patients whether it be in the emergency room, or in our offices, or have them have diagnostic testing such as echocardiograms or for that matter, stress tests, within the next week.
Category B patients can wait approximately two, maybe up to four weeks. It's not urgent, but it's not something that we can forget about any time soon.
And then category C patients are patients that can easily wait for their diagnostic work up to be completed in two to four months.
What can "Category A" patients expect when they come in for a test or procedure?
Depending upon the patient’s symptoms they may be evaluated in the office, they may be evaluated in the Emergency Room, or we may urgently ask them to have a procedure at the Chester County Hospital this particular week. If you had to come to the hospital to have a study or heart catheterization you will be formally COVID tested, and that is to protect you, protect other patients and to protect staff. So we will know what your COVID status is 24-48 hours before your diagnostic procedure.
What should cardiovascular patients know about going to the Emergency Room?
Patients fear that they may be infected with the COVID virus in the Emergency Room, they may fear that they may have long wait times in the Emergency Room and potentially get exposed, they may fear that they will have to go to the Emergency Room and that they will not be able to be with their family members, or they may fear that if they have chest pain or shortness of breath that in fact, they have COVID-19. A lot of those fears are actually not the case, in that, when patients do have chest pain and do have shortness of breath it's more likely that they have a true cardiovascular diagnosis due to coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure that warrants them coming to the Emergency Room where actually the wait times are minimal.
Here at the Chester County Hospital we have sort of geographically distinct Emergency Rooms where we are able to restratify our COVID patients in one part of the Emergency Room and our non-COVID patients in a different part of the Emergency Room.
What signs and symptoms warrant a visit to the Emergency Room?
Via televideo medicine we are able to, to the best of our ability, figure out if someone is having decompensated congestive heart failure or unstable chest pain that could put them at risk for a heart attack. My concern in those patients is if they're having active chest pain, active chest pressure, that they not wait, and they come directly to the Emergency Room so that they do not present late for a heart attack which could cause them to have a very complicated course.
Weight gain, shortness of breath, increased abdominal girth due to fluid retention, increased swelling in the lower extremities, difficulty sleeping at night because of shortness of breath all are signs and symptoms of congestive heart failure, that if not addressed in the Emergency Room, can cause the patient a much more late, complicated course, when in fact, if they had presented earlier, we could turn around those symptoms quite quickly.
Why it is important to keep in contact with your provider?
There are over 50 cardiovascular professionals here at Chester County Hospital. It is very important that you keep in touch with your physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians' assistants, and surgeons so that you can constantly let them know if you are having any problems or symptoms.
You can do this by way of telemedicine, televideo medicine, all of the offices are open and the phones are ready to take your phone call. You will also see on our hospital website (ChesterCountyHospital.org/Wellness) virtual teaching sessions for patients who have diabetes, congestive heart failure, where you can also learn how you can manage your conditions at home, answering those questions and contact those people, if need be.
How can Cardiovascular patients maintain their health?
Most importantly, we are still going to following the CDC guidelines, which are:
- Socially distance beyond six feet.
- Frequently wash your hands several times of the day.
- Wear masks when you are, for example, grocery shopping, or are coming to the hospital or you are in a public place.
- Cover your nose, cover your mouth when you have to sneeze so that you do not expose others.
From a cardiovascular perspective, during this time I still want people to maintain healthy diets, get on their scale every morning to watch their weight, and if they are capable, take a daily walk. It is a stress reducer; they will definitely feel better after going outside during the spring which will also help them with their mental health.