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February 9, 2013

Memorial picked for ‘prestigious’ study

JOHNSTOWN — Memorial Medical Center’s selection to participate in a worldwide heart study demonstrates the  Conemaugh Health System’s reputation in comprehensive cardiac care.

Led by Drs. Robert Stenberg and Roshankumar B. Patel, interventional cardiologists, the study looks at treatment options for the primary type of coronary artery disease.

The study looks at the value of angioplasty and stenting for patients with stable cardiac ischemia, defined as insufficient oxygen reaching the heart muscle through its blood supply. Ischemia is usually the result of coronary heart disease, in which arteries narrow due to a buildup of cholesterol plaque, Patel said.

“It is basically a demand and supply mismatch,” Patel said. “There is more demand for oxygen than supply.”

Coronary heart disease with ischemia is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Ischemic heart disease affects 17.6 million Americans, resulting in about 450,000 deaths each year.

Memorial is one of 500 medical facilities around the world participating in the International Study of Comparative Health Effectiveness with Medical and Invasive Approaches. New York University Langone Medical Center is leading the study and expects to involve more than about 8,000 patients.

Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the study will provide a purely scientific assessment, Patel said.

“It is not biased or sponsored by a drug company,” he said.

Conemaugh is one of the few community-based organizations participating in the study, joining renown medical programs  such as Harvard University, Emory University and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

“This will be a very important, high impact study in the world of cardiovascular medicine,” Stenberg said. “It’s an honor for Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center to be included as a participating center in such a prestigious trial.”

Patients who have had stress tests showing moderate to severe ischemia after experiencing some symptoms of heart disease will be able to voluntarily participate in the study at Memorial if their disease is stable, Patel said.

Participants will be randomly divided into two groups. Half will receive interventional heart catheterizations with angioplasty and stents.

The other half will be treated medically with blood thinners and other drugs. Both will be prescribed lifestyle modifications to reduce their risk of heart attack.

If a participant in the medical-management group has a heart attack or if the treatment does not control the symptoms, the patient will be treated by catheterization, Patel stressed.

Most patients currently receive the catheterizations, Patel said. But several other studies have called into question the value of the invasive treatments.

“This study will answer what is the difference?” he said. “Does the stent change anything? The hypothesis is that the stent will improve the outcome.

“The information obtained from this study will be very important to guide treatment decisions for our cardiovascular patients.”

Being selected for the national study is a tribute to Conemaugh’s program, as well as the expertise of Stenberg and Patel, vascular surgeon Dr. James Tretter said.

“We have always had a very successful interventional cardiology practice in town,” Tretter said. “Dr. Stenberg and Dr. Patel are interventional cardiologists. They have always been at the top of the game with respect to the cardiac catheterizations.”

The interventional cardiologists and heart surgeon Dr. Savas Mavridis provide life-saving care in the case of heart attacks and other cardiac events, but they also improve the quality of life for heart patients with procedures that improve heart function.

For patients with conditions affecting heart rhythm or electrical function, Dr. Genevieve Brumberg has brought her expertise in cardiac electrophysiology to the Conemaugh Physicians Group.

“She is the first electrophysiologist that we have had in Johns-

town,” Tretter said. “It is a huge step forward in the treatment of electrical and rhythm problems in the heart.”

Brumberg sees patients in the cardiology suite at the newly renamed Conemaugh Medical Park on Franklin Street near downtown Johnstown. With seven doctors, support staff and state-of-the-art diagnostic testing, the former Tech Park has become a one-stop shop for heart care in the region.

At Memorial Medical Center’s main campus, a new electrophysiology lab complements the cardiac catheterization lab and surgical suites, providing the latest in heart care.

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