Treating Jackie’s Heart Disease: A Magee-Womens Heart Program Story

Jackie Stogoski, 70, had been dealing with heart disease for more than 20 years when she met Venmathi Indramohan, MD, during a trip to the UPMC Passavant–McCandless emergency department (ED) in 2019. Dr. Indramohan is a cardiologist who sees patients at the Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant. Cardiologist Lydia Davis, MD also sees patients at the program.

“I was having chest pain three or four times a week. It was my normal, but I had a crippling fear of dying,” says Jackie, who lives in Gibsonia. “That’s what sent me to the ED. But Dr. Indramohan listened to me, and she paid attention. She asked the right questions to get the right answers.”

After reviewing Jackie’s history and records and ordering a heart catheterization (a procedure to evaluate certain heart conditions) that ruled out any major blockage, Dr. Indramohan suggested a change in her medication regimen. “Before she walked out of the room, I asked her if she’d be my doctor,” recalls Jackie, a retired UPMC nurse.

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Comprehensive Heart Care

The Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant, established as part of the UPMC Magee-Womens Heart Program under the direction of Katie Berlacher, MD, offers complete cardiovascular care for women in every stage of life. It provides services to women who have received a diagnosis of heart disease or who have worrisome symptoms or risk factors. Initial evaluations take place at UPMC Passavant–Cranberry.

“Women have a unique biology and risk factors compared to men. They need care tailored to their specific needs,” Dr. Indramohan says. “Being treated in a women’s heart program means that you get attention to problems specifically related to women.”

“On their own, the tests we use to diagnose and treat women are no different than what we use for men. But we might order extra tests to screen for risk factors. Diagnosing heart disease earlier makes all the difference.”

Jackie’s Complex Heart History

Dr. Indramohan says Jackie is a “perfect example” of someone who would have benefited from earlier care through the Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant, which is a collaboration between UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital and the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.

“Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to preventing long-term complications,” Dr. Indramohan says.

Jackie’s history with heart disease is long and complicated. Diagnosed with a common type of heart disease called coronary artery disease in 1997, she underwent two balloon angioplasty procedures to remove blockages in the arteries leading to her heart.

Two years later, she began experiencing odd chest pains at night — a condition that she determined was unstable angina — and went on a regimen of cardiac medicines. In addition, Jackie received a breast cancer diagnosis in 2004 and received extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Over the next decade, she received diagnoses of several more cardiovascular-related conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, and kidney disease. Between 2013 and 2015, she underwent two heart catheterizations and had stents inserted after experiencing a coronary artery blockage and a heart attack. The angina continued to plague her until she met Dr. Indramohan.

Cardiac Care Designed for Women

“Women are different from men. You can’t treat them the same,” Jackie says. “Dr. Indramohan understands this — not because she’s a woman, but because she understands women and heart disease. When she adjusted my medication, she truly gave me my life back,” says Jackie, who soon returned to walking and gardening. “I didn’t realize how much I was missing.”

Women tend to wait longer than men before getting cardiac care — in part because their symptoms are so different. When they do seek help, they are often misdiagnosed or treated less aggressively.

“Symptoms in women are often more subtle. They don’t have textbook signs like crushing chest or arm pain,” Dr. Indramohan says. “Sometimes, they just don’t feel well or may be out of breath. Or perhaps they can’t climb steps without stopping to rest.”

Other heart-related symptoms that are more common in women include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Dr. Indramohan continues to manage Jackie’s care, addressing her various cardiovascular issues and working closely with her UPMC primary care doctor, Helen Thornton, MD, to ensure she’s on the right medicine regimen. Her kidney function, glucose, and cholesterol levels have all improved. Although she has developed heart failure, Jackie still walks about 26 flights of stairs and 13,000 steps a day.

Specialized Women’s Heart Care Close to Home

The Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant offers women a wide range of assessments, testing, and treatments right in the North Hills, including:

  • Assessment of cardiac risk related to hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
  • Diagnostic testing like stress tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, and cardiac catheterizations.
  • Sex-specific risk assessment for heart disease.
  • Treatment of chronic conditions that can lead to heart disease in women, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

“I highly recommend the Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant. They want you better and they’ll keep working to get you there,” Jackie says.

To schedule an appointment with the Magee-Womens Heart Program, fill out an online contact form or call 412-748-6484.

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. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.