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In January 2016, Rose Damato, 69, had surgery for an abdominal aneurysm, an enlargement in the main blood vessel carrying blood to the body. Without this surgery, she would have risked a rupture and life-threatening blood loss.
Once this successful surgery was behind her, the Bloomingdale resident was ready to focus on reducing her heart disease risk with the help of Michael Brottman, MD, a cardiologist with Elmhurst Hospital and Advocate Medical Group.
"Rose has several risk factors that we knew about, including a high cholesterol level," says Dr. Brottman. "I suggested she also get a calcium scoring heart scan, a painless, 10-minute test. This would help assess the plaque in her coronary arteries — a key cardiac risk factor — and guide treatment."
"After the aneurysm experience, I wasn’t going to play games with my health," recalls Rose. "Especially since my family has a notoriously bad history of strokes and heart attacks. A heart attack took my father when he was just 55. If Dr. Brottman said it was a good idea to get a scan I was going to do it."
At Rose’s suggestion, her then 69-year-old husband Ron decided to go for a scan around the same time.
Says Dr. Brottman, "The ideal calcium score on these scans is 0 to 10. It should at least be less than 100. Rose’s score was 2,442 and Ron’s was somewhat lower, but still quite high at 1,910."
Dr. Brottman prescribed stress tests for Rose and Ron, which they scheduled at Elmhurst Hospital. This test looks at blood flow in various parts of the heart. The results surprised them both.
Says Rose, "I was totally shocked to learn that my stress test was OK and Ron’s wasn’t."
"Ron’s test showed a part of his heart was not getting enough blood, likely from significant blockage due to plaque build-up, but a stress test doesn’t provide the details,” says Dr. Brottman. “He needed a coronary angiogram — a procedure that looks at blood flow through the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart. It revealed 100 percent blockage in one of his arteries, 75 percent in another and a 55 percent blockage in his main artery."
Ron had the angiogram on Dec. 8 and, on Dec. 13, he had triple bypass surgery, performed by Michael DaValle, MD, a cardiac surgeon with Elmhurst Hospital and Cardiac Surgery Associates.
"Ron’s condition was severe and dangerous," says Dr. Brottman. "If it had not been treated, he could have had a heart attack at any time."
Dr. Brottman says follow-up involves aggressive management of Ron’s risk factors. That’s done through cardiac rehab and the use of a blood thinner in addition to his other medications.
"I was glad I was at Elmhurst and under the care of Dr. Brottman and Dr. DaValle, as well as the nurses and everyone at the hospital," says Ron. "I always felt I was in good hands through all of this.
"Another result of this experience that I’m glad about is that Rose is going to check in (about her own health) with Dr. Brottman more often than she did before."
"The Damatos’ situation shows that even if you’re asymptomatic, you should take advantage of screenings and modern technology to know your risks,” says Dr. Brottman. "Many people assume they are fine until they aren’t. Tests like the heart scan can help find conditions before they are a problem."
Heart scans, which do not require a doctor’s order, are recommended for men over 40 and women over 45 who have certain risk factors. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, the scan includes a lipid profile, glucose measure, blood pressure reading and consultation with a cardiac nurse.
Learn more about heart scans and cardiac services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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