By late February, stores will have marked down the prices of their pink and red heart-shaped products and stocked the shelves with four-leaf clovers in preparation for Saint Patrick’s Day. Though the rest of the world has moved on from Valentine’s Day and considerations of the heart until next year, we recognize the heart’s importance all year long. Three hundred sixty-five days a year, it pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body, using an elaborate roadmap of veins, arteries, and capillaries. It’s the center of the circulatory system, and February being American Heart Month gives us 28 days to highlight the significance of heart health.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States—regardless of gender or ethnicity. We are all at risk, so we spoke with Dr. Alamgir Neowaz, a registered cardiac and vascular sonographer, to discuss how point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) can support cardiology patients and practitioners. In his 17 years of using POCUS to examine patients at the bedside, he has found that the tool is crucial for prompt and accurate diagnoses.
In fact, studies show that bedside ultrasound can decrease time spent diagnosing pathologies and improve treatment success across many different specialties—from skin and soft tissue to cardiovascular. This is a critical benefit because time is of the essence when it comes to vital organs.
The American Heart Association uses the phrase, “Time is brain.” For every minute a stroke goes untreated, the average patient loses 1.9 million brain cells. Each hour left untreated, the brain loses the number of brain cells comparable to the amount lost in 3.6 years of natural aging. A similar sentiment is true for patients experiencing cardiac arrest. For each minute that passes, the chance of survival decreases by 10%. The sooner a remedy is applied, the better.
Thankfully, clinicians can use the pocket-sized device to cut down on time prior to treatment. POCUS assessments are performed at the bedside, providing a clear understanding of the patient’s condition right where they lay. This convenient access point eliminates the time spent transporting patients to various departments.
Dr. Neowaz also notes the importance of POCUS when examining patients with diseases, such as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), that can be difficult to diagnose. DCM is a condition where the heart’s left ventricle—the main pumping chamber—becomes enlarged. As it grows, its muscle wall becomes thinner and weaker, hindering its ability to pump blood to the body. Though the direct cause of the condition is unknown, it is often related to other heart diseases such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, and high blood pressure.
DCM’s symptoms—shortness of breath and fatigue—may go unnoticed initially and can even be mistaken for other health issues. Dr. Neowaz delineated how indispensable POCUS is in these situations. Without the complete picture that it provides of the cardiovascular system, practitioners could mistake one illness for another. When a few moments could mean the difference between life and death, practitioners cannot risk time spent on inaccurate conclusions and ineffective treatment plans. A lack of the whole picture means patients’ lives are at risk.
This is why Dr. Neowaz calls POCUS “life-saving.” It provides timeliness and accuracy when they matter most. To advocate for this necessary tool, he has partnered with the Point-of-Care Ultrasound (POCUS) Certification Academy™ as a volunteer at his practice in Toronto. By recommending the device to colleagues and educating his local medical community about its benefits, he is helping to improve healthcare and save lives.
Interested in joining the POCUS Certification Academy community? Check out our Volunteer page for information on how you can strengthen the medical industry by sharing the opportunities provided by our favorite innovative tool.