|“Ring for Your Rhythm” is a new telephone-based initiative by the Joel E. Smilow Heart Institute at Bridgeport Hospital aimed at helping the public detect symptoms of atrial fibrillation (a-fib) and prevent strokes.|
“While a-fib is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder, affecting approximately two million adults in the United States, half the people who have it experience no symptoms,” says Chief of Cardiology Stuart Zarich, MD.
A-fib is triggered by abnormal electrical signals in the heart’s upper chambers, causing the heart to flutter, quiver or shake, rather than beat steadily. This irregular beating results in the pooling of blood in the heart’s chambers, which can lead to blood clots. These clots can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
Callers to the toll-free number, 1-855-BH-PULSE (1-855-247-8573), are connected to a one-minute message recorded by cardiologist Gil Lancaster, MD, who provides them with instructions on how to take their pulse. If callers detect an irregular heartbeat, they are urged to contact their primary care physician. They can press zero at anytime during the call to be connected to a live operator for further information or a referral to a Bridgeport Hospital physician.
“People with a-fib may be at risk and not even know it,” says Dr. Zarich. “Therefore, everyone needs to learn how to take their pulse, do it regularly and tell their doctor about any skipped beats.”
Bridgeport Hospital has been a leader in advanced cardiac care for more than 50 years. The hospital performed the first diagnostic cardiac catheterization in Fairfield County in 1961, the county’s first open-heart surgery in 1963 and the county’s first balloon angioplasty in 1981.
Other Fairfield County firsts at Bridgeport Hospital include the use of bare metal stents in 1994 to fortify re-opened arteries following angioplasty and the use of drug-coated and antibiotic-coated stents in 2001 and 2003, respectively, to prevent reclotting of the arteries.
Expert physicians at Bridgeport Hospital also implanted Fairfield County’s first implantable defibrillator to prevent sudden cardiac death in 1995, the county’s first pacemaker for the treatment of congestive heart failure in 2001 and the first MRI-compatible pacemaker in Connecticut in 2009.
Another milestone at Bridgeport Hospital in 2001 was Fairfield County’s first catheter ablation to treat a-fib. In 2006, the hospital was the site of Fairfield County’s first minimally invasive Mini-Maze surgery for a-fib.