If you or someone you love has a heart condition, you’re not alone. Australian Government figures show approximately 161 Australians experience an acute heart event (a heart attack or unstable angina) every day. In Australia, cardiovascular disease is estimated to affect almost one in five adults. Children can also be impacted, experiencing conditions such as congenital heart disease.
Clearly, early diagnosis of a heart condition gives you, or your loved one, the best chance of receiving treatment. And a greater general knowledge can help ease some of the stress.
The team from Melbourne Private Hospital thought it’d be helpful to answer the top eight questions people ask about our cardiology services.
1. What are some signs that I might need to see a cardiologist?
You may benefit from a review by a cardiologist if you’re experiencing:
- Chest pain/angina
- Palpitations i.e., racing or irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or fainting
- Heart failure signs – swollen ankles, difficulty lying flat, or waking short of breath
It’s important to note that patients presenting with a heart condition often describe a sensation of chest ‘discomfort’ rather than pain. They may describe pressure or heaviness in the centre of the chest, which can radiate up to the jaw or into the left shoulder. This may be associated with shortness of breath, sweating, and sometimes dizziness. Any combination of these symptoms can indicate a heart problem.
2. What’s the first thing I should do?
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your GP and ask for a referral to one of Melbourne Private Hospital's cardiology specialists. Melbourne Private Hospital has over 40 consulting cardiologists and performs the most comprehensive cardiac procedures in Melbourne. Our doctors are all highly qualified general cardiologists, with specialities in traditional and minimally invasive (entry through a small incision) procedures.
Some of the specialist services/investigations available at Melbourne Private Hospital include:
- echocardiography – diagnosis using ultrasound imaging techniques. Available onsite at the hospital from some cardiology practices.
- interventional cardiology – treatment (including emergency treatment) using minimally-invasive procedures, including cardiac catheterisation, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), and mitral valve replacement and repair.
- cardiac electrophysiology – diagnosis and management of conditions involving the heart’s electrical system, including pacemaker installation.
- cardiothoracic surgery – open heart surgeries, including coronary bypass surgeries.
If you require urgent medical attention, dial 000 (triple zero) and ask for the ambulance.
3. What’s covered by my health fund?
You can claim through your private health fund for inpatient services. Sometimes, your health fund and Medicare may not cover all the fees and you might need to make an out of pocket or gap payment. Your cardiologist’s rooms can answer questions about fees.
4. What should I do to prepare for my procedure?
If your cardiologist has booked you for a procedure, they’ll tell you how to prepare. The hospital will also contact you regarding your procedure 24-48 hours prior to your admission. However, here are some general things you can do to prepare:
- Have important information ready, including your Medicare number, private health insurance/DVA details, emergency contact person details, your referral, a list of current medications, and results of any tests you’ve had since your last visit.
- If you have an implanted pacemaker or defibrillator, bring its identification card.
- Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothing that’s easy to get on and off.
- If you’ll be staying in hospital, pack a bag with comfortable clothes, underwear, toiletries, phone charger and any other personal items you might want (like reading material).
- Look after your overall health by getting some light physical activity, enough sleep, and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
- Contact your cardiologist’s rooms if you have any questions.
5. What will happen after my procedure?
This will vary depending on your procedure. As a rule, you’ll go straight to a recovery ward where our world class nursing staff will monitor your condition. Some people may be transferred to our intensive care unit or coronary care unit for ongoing specialist care.
Our expert cardiologists, surgeons, cardiothoracic anaesthetists and nurses will continue to provide medical assistance as you recover.
6. Will I be in pain?
Some discomfort is to be expected after any surgical procedure. However, our anaesthetic specialists use the latest pain management techniques to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible. Our attentive, experienced nurses are also on hand to help you feel at ease.
7. How long will it take to recover?
Recovery times can vary from hours to days to months. It depends on various factors, including the type of procedure you’ve had, your age, and whether you have any other health conditions. Your doctor will explain what to expect in your situation.
8. What should I do once I'm discharged from hospital?
The most important thing to do is follow your specialist’s instructions, as these are designed to optimise the success of your procedure and your recovery. You might need to avoid some activities, like heavy lifting, sport, or driving, for a time. Your specialist will discuss this with you. It’s also vital to keep taking your medications as prescribed.
Aim to follow heart-healthy habits, like eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in some physical activity on most days. Looking after your mental health is also crucial. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns about your physical, mental or emotional wellbeing.
You might also benefit from cardiac rehabilitation – an evidence-based program designed to gradually strengthen your heart, lungs, and circulatory system and teach you about lifestyle changes that reduce your heart disease risk.
You and your cardiologist will discuss if you require cardiac rehab and if so, they will advise on the most suitable cardiac program to improve your health and help you recover after a heart procedure, so you can get back to doing what you love.
Like more information about Melbourne Private Hospital's cardiology services?