Man in a hospital bed

Sheri Crownover knows all too well what a heart attack feels like. She experienced her first major heart attack at age 46 and another a year later. Both times, she woke up with severe chest pain and nausea, and was flown to UPMC Altoona for an emergency heart catheterization.

Over the past 7 years, the Millcreek resident has had 5 separate procedures to open blocked coronary arteries — all performed at UPMC Altoona by George Jabbour, MD, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of the cardiac catheterization lab. He also inserted 5 stents to keep blood flowing in her arteries.

Sheri, who suffers from coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure, recently returned to UPMC Altoona for another scheduled heart catheterization.

“I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” says Sheri, now 53. “Both times I was flown there, I didn’t think I’d make it. But Dr. Jabbour and the cath lab team saved my life — twice.”

“I tell everybody: They are the best,” adds Sheri. “Why would I go anywhere else?”

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Minutes Matter

Heart muscle will die if blood flow isn’t restored quickly. “When you’re having a heart attack, time is muscle. Quick intervention increases your chance of survival and minimizes damage to your heart,” says Dr. Jabbour.

At UPMC Altoona, a team of cardiologists, nurses, and technologists is ready to perform life-saving cardiac treatments any time of the day or night.

In the United States, the average time for hospitals performing an intervention such as an angioplasty — a procedure to open narrow or blocked coronary arteries using a thin catheter, or tube, with a balloon at its tip — is 90 minutes, starting from the moment a patient enters the hospital until the balloon is inflated and blood flow restored. At UPMC Altoona, the cath lab’s “door-to-balloon” time averages less than 60 minutes.

Experience And Expertise

According to Dr. Jabbour, life-saving interventions are safer when doctors and hospital staff have a higher degree of experience with the procedures. More than 4,000 patients are treated annually in UPMC Altoona’s cath lab, making it the busiest in the region. In addition, the hospital’s partnership with the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute means patients have access to cardiac surgeons and vascular surgeons, who are on call 24/7 to treat emergencies. “Complications can arise even during scheduled procedures. Without that expertise immediately available, that complication can lead to loss of a limb or loss of life,” says Dr. Jabbour.

Cardiac Services Available

At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Altoona, experts offer a full range of services for the diagnosis, treatment, management, and prevention of heart and vascular disease.

Interventional cardiology procedures include angioplasty and stenting, as well as the implantation of pacemakers and defibrillators, electrophysiology studies, and radiofrequency ablation. In January, the hospital began using the Impella® device — an innovative new intervention in which a tiny pump is inserted during a heart catheterization procedure to provide temporary support by keeping blood circulating in patients with seriously weakened hearts. To learn more about cardiac care at UPMC Altoona, visit UPMC.com/HVIAltoona.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.