UMH Offers New Service-Cardiac Rehabilitation

Feb 4, 2019 /

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Uvalde Memorial Hospital’s (UMH) rehabilitation department and cardiopulmonary department have teamed up to bring the community Cardiac Rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) services.The initiation of a cardiac rehab program is something the community will benefit from in multiple ways, providing future and health and wellness for patients who previously would have had to travel to San Antonio or further for care.

“When we stop to consider that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s easy to realize why cardiac rehab is an important service to offer this community,” said Felisha Tinker, UMH cardiopulmonary manager.

The new program is under the medical direction of Dr. Shawn Ragbir, board certified in internal medicine with a specialty in cardiology, and Dr. Andrzej Stypko, board certified in family medicine with a specialty in wound care, including diabetic care.

Cardiac rehab is a program that uses exercises provided by the rehab department with a specific focus on the heart. The exercises are completed with a physical therapist all while having the heart monitored on a telemetry unit that transmits the patient’s heart rate and rhythm to a computer that is being watched by a certified respiratory technician skilled in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS). 

  • -Myocardial Infarction (heart attack)
  • -Exercise induced stable chest pain
  • -Angioplasty with cardiac Stent Placement
  • -Angioplasty without stent placement
  • -Cardiac Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG)
  • -Cardiac valve disease
  • -Heart failure

If a patient qualifies with one of the above diagnoses, their physician completes a referral to start the program. Medical directors, Dr. Ragbir and Dr. Stypko, will then review and sign off on the cardiac plan of care. The initial visit for a cardiac rehab patient includes an assessment on diet, previous activity level, lifestyle, and potential psychological issues that might prevent future success.

“One of the goals of cardiac rehab is to take a holistic approach to the patient, and address any potential needs that might interfere with long term success. It does the patient no good if they have a bypass surgery and then go back to their previous habits; it just puts them back at square one,” Tinker stated.

Each session is designed specifically for the individual patient and their plan of care takes into consideration their age, current diagnosis, activity level, and more. Generally, new patient intakes are done on Thursday and regular sessions are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. An appointment is 30-60 minutes long and patients are seen 36 times over a 3-month period.

During each appointment the patient’s blood pressure, oxygenation, and heart rate are monitored continuously. The respiratory technician watches to ensure the heart rates remain at 50-75% of the patient’s max capacity throughout the session and can identify any irregular heart rhythms should they occur.

“The only way to truly get better is to be compliant with the treatments. By having a local option we hope that it will encourage that compliance and foster commitment for those patients who would otherwise have to travel into San Antonio. The travel can be a real hardship, and difficult to keep up with, and the reality is, due to having to travel, community members may not have remained faithful to the exercise regimen in the past. We want to change that with offering those services needed here in their hometown,” stated Matthew Hughes, UMH director of rehabilitation.

Patients that stay faithful to a cardiac rehab program show reduced risk for reoccurrence and reduced mortality rates.

“We are a small, rural community, but fortunate to have a regional hospital that provides services not only to our Uvalde family, but also beyond a 100-mile radius to the five other counties we serve. A specialized service like cardiac rehab previously required an individual to trek to San Antonio and this is the perfect example of a specialized service with local convenience,” added Hughes.

The team began seeing patients in mid-January and is working towards a full patient load in February, just in time to celebrate American Heart Month.


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