Specialist heart nurse at Mater Private Hospital, Cork says it’s important to respond quickly to early warning signs

Published Thursday, June 8th, 2017 at 09:47 am

  • Cork

PADRAIG Denn is a specialist heart nurse at Mater Private Hospital, Cork. He says it’s important to respond quickly to early warning signs. Padraig works in the urgent cardiac assessment unit with five consultant cardiologists.

Together they offer day-of-referral review for a wide variety of heart associated complaints, including those who may have abnormal heart beats in the Rapid Access Arrhythmia Clinic.

Denn has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of cardiac abnormalities including arrhythmias that can have life-limiting effects on individuals. 

Through the implementation of this experience and working closely with members of the multi-disciplinary cardiology team the unit provides a same-day service for the assessment, diagnosis and initiation of treatment.

Treatment of the wide variety of cardiac problems that come through the service not only includes pharmaceutical and procedural interventions but aims to improve the emotional and practical support offered to patients, and their families. 

All arrhythmia and cardiac nurses aim to ensure patients receive timely and high-quality support and information, based on an assessment of their needs.

One of the important areas of investigation within the Raid Access Arrhythmia Clinic is the diagnosis of new and established irregular heart beats. 

Of the various types of cardiac arrhythmias, the most common sustained arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which, according to the European Society of Cardiology, will affect one in four middle-aged adults by 2030 and up to 215,000 being diagnosed with it each year in the EU.

Atrial fibrillation has been directly associated with an increased risk of death, high levels of morbidity such as heart failure and stroke as well as frequent hospitalisations and associated reduction in quality of life.

Signs and symptoms
Atrial fibrillation can present in a variety of ways from significant symptoms such as fast pounding in your chest with marked breathlessness, dizziness and even loss of consciousness, to minor symptoms such as occasional fluttering in the chest, breathlessness when walking, increased tiredness despite adequate rest.

If you are concerned about any of the above symptoms contact your general practitioner as these symptoms can easily be investigated, diagnosed and treated before any serious complications develop.

Diagnosis and treatment
To begin, visit your family doctor who is your best first point of contact and will know if your symptoms are something to be concerned about and if they require further investigation.

It is vital not to ignore the warning signs. A detailed analysis of symptoms by an appropriately trained and experienced professional is a vital component of the diagnosis of a cardiac arrhythmia. This is essential as often the initial symptoms of various cardiac arrhythmias are subtle and intermittent.

Specific answers to detailed questions help to guide the practitioner toward the most appropriate advanced diagnostic tests required to make an arrhythmia diagnosis.

Once a specific type of cardiac arrhythmia is confirmed and the possible causes identified through detailed investigations then the appropriate treatments can be initiated by a consultant cardiologist. 

Treatments of cardiac arrhythmias vary dependent on the type and effect on the individual’s quality of life.

This can include simple medications to stabilise the heart muscle conduction to advanced invasive procedure, such as ablations, carried out by specialist electrical cardiologists, that eradicate the abnormality and thus remove the detrimental effects of the arrhythmia and associated effects on the person’s quality of life.

This feature first appeared in the Irish Examiner on Friday 2nd June 2017.