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Cardiovascular: Heart Smart

When Essie Ashford arrived at UAMS one morning in January, her left main coronary artery was so critically narrowed that she immediately needed a stent procedure just to survive long enough to make it into surgery.

A dedicated trauma elevator in the Emergency Department rushed the 65-year-old widow from Little Rock up to the state-of-the-art Catherization Laboratory in the new UAMS hospital, which had just opened a few days earlier. After a life-saving stent procedure to hold the artery open and the open-heart surgery to bypass four blockages, Essie recovered in the new Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and later in a spacious, family-friendly private room.

Dr. David Rutlen, UAMS Cardiovascular Center
UAMS patient Essie Ashford with
Dr. David Rutlen of the UAMS Cardiovascular Center

"Having a heart attack is a pretty harrowing experience, but I'm here today by the grace of God and the excellent people and hospital at UAMS."

Mrs. Ashford's situation was very, very critical, said David Rutlen, M.D., a professor and Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in the College of Medicine's Department of Internal Medicine. The entire UAMS team did a fantastic job caring for her, and the cardiac and other facilities of the new hospital were a wonderful environment for providing this care and for Mrs. Ashford's incredibly rapid recovery.

Our cardiology program is structured like a private practice within an academic environment, Rutlen said. Each patient has his or her own cardiologist to see them in clinic and care for them in the long-term. But procedures are performed by the fellowship trained subspecialists on our faculty who do each of those things best. The same cardiologist isn’t going to read the patient's echocardiogram and perform a catheterization and implant a pacemaker.

In Essie Ashford’s case, Rutlen is her private cardiologist. He saw her initially on the morning of her heart attack and has provided follow-up care. Rajesh Sachdeva, M.D., an assistant professor in the division and director of the cardiac catheterization labs at UAMS and the Central Arkansas Veteran’s Healthcare System (CAVHS), performed her stent procedure.

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