Instant Intervention: Probing Hearts In Real-Time

The crucial moments after a person has heart surgery can mean the difference between life and death. Now a first of its kind device is helping doctors monitor heart patients like never before.

For Vanessa Neely-Peterson, it's the little things like washing her own dishes that she doesn't take for granted anymore.

Vanessa Neely-Peterson Heart Attack Survivor
"I appreciate life,” says Vanessa Neely-Peterson a heart attack survivor. “I look at life differently."

Her son Rasheen remembers the night his mom almost died.

"She called me and fussed me out, saying why I didn't do the dishes and stuff like that," explains Vanessa’s son Rasheen Neely.

Soon after, Vanessa had a massive heart attack.

"Twenty doctors for 5 minutes apiece, pumped my heart," explains Neely-Peterson.

After bypass surgery, doctors used a first of its kind device to monitor Vanessa's cardiac function right at the bedside, without wheeling her to another room for an echo-cardiogram.

"This now really allows us a minute-to-minute evaluation of the patient as we change medical management,” explains Nicholas Cavarocchi, MD, Critical Care Director of Surgical Intensive Care at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Inserted into the esophagus, the hTEE probe allows doctors to watch in real-time the heart's pumping function and volume. Helping them decide whether to add or subtract IV medications in an instant.

"So with the probe we were able to differentiate reasons for her low cardiac output syndrome, avoid a return trip to the operating room," says Dr. Cavarocchi.

"I'm so thankful that I have a second chance with my mom," says Neely.

A chance this family is happy to take advantage of.

The monitor can be used on patients for up to 72 hours. The doctor says it's changing how he practices medicine because it helps him make safer, more informed decisions when it comes to patient care.


TOPIC: Instant Intervention: Probing Hearts In Real-Time
REPORT: MB # 3526

BACKGROUND: A heart attack occurs if the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of heart muscle suddenly becomes blocked. If blood flow isn't restored quickly, the section of heart muscle begins to die. Heart attacks most often occur as a result of coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease. CHD is a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque (plak) builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis, and the buildup of plaque occurs over many years. Eventually, an area of plaque can rupture (break open) inside of an artery. This causes a blood clot to form on the plaque's surface. If the clot becomes large enough, it can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. If the blockage isn't treated quickly, the portion of heart muscle fed by the artery begins to die. Healthy heart tissue is replaced with scar tissue. This heart damage may not be obvious, or it may cause severe or long-lasting problems. (Source:

SIGNS: The warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack aren't the same for everyone. Many heart attacks start slowly as mild pain or discomfort. Some people don't have symptoms at all. Heart attacks that occur without any symptoms or very mild symptoms are called silent heart attacks. The most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. This includes new chest pain or discomfort or a change in the pattern of existing chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that often lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. The feeling can be mild or severe. Heart attack pain sometimes feels like indigestion or heartburn. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new device is allowing surgeons at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to view in real time the movement of blood and the amount of pressure in the veins, arteries and chambers of the heart and react quickly to any hemodynamic instabilities (compromised blood movement). The specialized probe, a hemodynamic transesophageal echocardiography (hTEE) device, is inserted into the patient's esophagus to visualize the cardiac chambers and allow for hemodynamic management-the continuous monitoring of the movement of blood and pressure in the veins, arteries and chambers of heart-for up to 72 hours. The probe captures images and sends them to a screen in the patient's room to monitor his or her response to fluid interventions and to help determine or re-direct the best course of treatment over an extended period of time. (Source:


LeeAnn Landis
Media Relations
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
(215) 955-2240

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