Wow, what an amazing week. This week I spent some of my time shadowing in the CCICU for patients with severe heart problems. A lot of the patients on this floor, due to their heart problem, are very sick, and have afflictions with other parts of their body too. While some patients recover 100% and are able to leave soon, for a lot of the patients, some of what the doctors have to do is decide how to take care of the patient's problems in a long term manner.
In addition to the CCICU, I spent one day shadowing in the ER with Dr. Jeremy Sperling. There were no extremely urgent cases, but it was very interesting to see how the flow of the ER worked. There are three main departments that patients are sent to after being triaged -- the main ER for patients with larger problems, urgent care for small cuts and burns, etc and then a pediatric ER for children. I talked to Dr. Sperling specifically about Heart Attacks coming into the ER, since I am interested in Cardiac problems for the summer since it pertains to my research. He said that other then a STEMI, it is hard sometimes to distinguish what chest pain is coming from and if it really is a heart attack, or just something like indigestion. Currently, they use a lot of tests, including checking triponin levels, but that can take hours. There is one study that is going on that uses CT to rule out heart attack, but there is only one radiologist that runs it, and it is only avaliable 9-5 Monday through Friday. Dr. Sperling said that if MRI was better developed though, that they would use that on almost every patient with chest pain, to diagnose heart attacks quickly. This was good to hear, since that is exactly my research, and it was really cool to see that there is already a specific need for it!
The third interesting part of my week was being able to watch an open heart surgery. The patient had an atrial mixoma that had to be removed. Fortunately, it turned out that the mixoma was benign. It was interesting to see how the doctors first sawed through the ribs, then worked their way into the heart. Once they were ready to cut open the atria to take out the tumor, they put the patient on the heart and lung machine which takes care of lung and heart functions during the surgery. They then opened the heart, took the tumor out, revived the patient from the heart and lung machine, and then closed up the chest. It was really interesting to see the amount of people that work together in this surgery -- the surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and heart/lung machine techs. It really was a once in a lifetime chance to watch this surgery, and I was very fortunate to be able to see it.