Diagnosing Heart Problems: February 19, 2011

An extra stop at the drive-thru. Another week without exercise. Little things can add up to big heart problems. “Coronary artery disease is by far the most common thing that we see and is the number one killer in developed nations,” says Dr. Paul DiGiorgi, a cardiothoracic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

He says he’s seeing increased cases and some due to poor lifestyle choices. “We see that everyday. We see patients who are in their 40s who are higher risk and in worst shape than patients who are in their 80s. Specifically, because the patients in their 40s had not been able to take care of themselves and the patients in their 80s have been, you know, very compulsive about taking care of themselves.”

But not all of it is because of lifestyle habits. Some heart problems come with aging. “The valvular heart disease is also very common especially in Florida because of the population demographics, our older patients. And our average valve patient is getting close to 70 years old.”

Other cases are simply due to a malfunction in the body. “There’s a small population of patients that have aneurysms and even small population of patients that have tumors in the heart and things like that.”

Thanks to new robotic surgical technology, many heart problems can be fixed through minimally invasive procedures. This can mean less scarring and less recovery time for patients.