Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Health

Heart patient gets startling letter from competing cardiology practice

ST. PETERSBURG

Valeeta Gibson thought it was "kind of strange" when her husband, Carl, received a letter from the Tampa Bay Heart Institute at Northside Hospital, asking whether he knew his "ejection fraction'' measurement.

For one thing, Mr. Gibson, 69, is a cardiology patient, but not at Northside. So why was he on the hospital's mailing list?

Equally mystifying: What, the couple wondered, is ejection fraction?

They were particularly unnerved by these words: "If you don't know your measurement, you should — it could save your life."

"I kind of felt like, 'is it something that my husband needs to be concerned about?' " said Mrs. Gibson, who promptly brought the Dec. 27 letter to her husband's cardiologist, Dr. David Mokotoff.

Mokotoff, who heads the four-office Bay Area Heart Center, said that by his count, hundreds of his practice's patients received the Northside letter.

He didn't much care for it as a marketing tool. And he really didn't care for its alarming tone, which he said caused "a lot of fear and concern."

He and his colleagues complained to Heart Institute and Northside CEO Stephen Daugherty, who then suspended what he called a "community education campaign." He couldn't be reached for comment and a spokeswoman didn't say how many of the letters went out, or how they were targeted.

But what about the letter's main question: If you have heart disease, should you know your ejection fraction measurement?

Not necessarily, experts say. This isn't a number such as weight, cholesterol or blood pressure that patients can monitor on their own between doctor visits.

Ejection fraction refers to the percentage of blood that leaves the heart each time it contracts. It's measured using sophisticated (and costly) tests such as an echocardiogram, cardiac catheterization or magnetic resonance imaging.

"In certain patients, it's important," said Dr. Christopher Kramer, professor of medicine and radiology at the University of Virginia and chair of the imaging council of the American College of Cardiology.

For patients with symptoms of congestive heart failure, ejection fraction could help determine whether they'll need a defibrillator or pacemaker implant, Kramer said.

But as for everyone with heart disease knowing their measurement, "I think that's probably not necessary," he said.

Mokotoff also took issue with the letter's statement that if your ejection fraction measurement is less than 50 percent, "your heart muscles could be weak and in danger of sudden cardiac arrest."

"That's absolutely not true," he said.

Kramer agreed, calling the statement "a drastic oversimplification of a very complicated area."

There's general agreement that normal ejection fraction is between 50 to 75 percent, and that anything less than 35 percent is dangerous. But Mokotoff said there's little data to suggest people with measurements of between 36 and 49 percent are at higher risk of cardiac arrest.

Aimee Bennett, a spokeswoman for Northside Hospital, wrote in an email that the letter was part of a series of education pieces on heart disease leading up to National Heart Month in February.

"For years, we have encouraged our patients to be involved in their health care by knowing their numbers — weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol, to name a few," she wrote. "For those with heart disease, ejection fraction is another number to monitor and discuss with their physician." But, she added "we have temporarily put the communication on hold as we evaluate whether additional explanation may be warranted."

Richard Martin can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Give your arms a workout, too

Give your arms a workout, too

In addition to appearance, it is very important to maintain strength in those arms, as they are needed for practically every upper body movement we perform. We often take our 23 arm muscles for granted, until we reach a point where it suddenly become...
Published: 05/22/18
Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Going long hours without eating isn’t good for us, we are often told. Our bodies need fuel regularly. Otherwise, we may become lethargic, tired and hungry. Our thinking can become mushy, our ability to work, and even play, hampered.Not so fast.A new ...
Published: 05/22/18
U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. regulators Thursday approved the first drug designed to prevent chronic migraines. The Food and Drug Administration’s action clears the monthly shot Aimovig (AIM’-oh-vig) for sale. It’s the first in a new class of long-acting dru...
Published: 05/18/18
Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day, and the American Medical Association is encouraging people to monitor their blood pressure levels and get high blood pressure, or hypertension, under control. High blood pressure, sometimes referred to as the...
Published: 05/17/18
Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Women having trouble getting pregnant sometimes try yoga, meditation or mindfulness, and some research suggests that psychological stress may affect infertility. But what about men: Does their mental state affect a couple’s ability to conceive?The la...
Published: 05/17/18
Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

TAMPA—Tampa General Hospital was named one of the top 100 hospitals in America for the fifth consecutive year, and second best in Florida, according to one health industry website.Tampa General is considered the best hospital in the Tampa area, accor...
Published: 05/16/18
Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Even though a circuit judge has ruled that Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner can grow and juice his own marijuana, he was barred from doing so until the appeals process is finished.So Redner’s lawyers filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court o...
Published: 05/15/18
Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Over the span of three weeks, Brenda Gotlen watched as her abdomen got bigger. Her lower stomach felt bloated."It got to the point that I looked nine months pregnant," said Gotlen, a 62-year-old Seffner resident. She made an appointment to see her pr...
Published: 05/15/18
Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

Some health premiums will go up next year. Which party should we blame this time?

As some insurers angle for hefty premium hikes and concerns grow that more Americans will wind up uninsured, the federal health law is likely — once again — to play big in both parties’ strategies for the contentious 2018 election.Candidates are alre...
Published: 05/15/18
Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

Blood donations from the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of babies

When he was 14, James Harrison needed surgery. And as he would come to find out, he would also need a significant amount ofstrangers’ blood to survive it.After he had recovered and as soon as he became an adult, Harrison felt compelled to pay it forw...
Published: 05/14/18