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NEWS | April 2, 2013

Never skipping a beat: Langley cardiology pumps out patient care

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 11-ounce human heart pumps 2,000 gallons of blood across 60,000 miles of blood vessels every day.

With such a vital, strenuous cycle to uphold, there is no question as to why Langley Air Force Base, Va., has a dedicated cardiology clinic on hand to help the Langley hearts with their labors of love.

The cardiology clinic is a recent addition to U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley, having been established late last year. With the new addition of the clinic, a member of the Langley community can receive a diagnosis of possible heart complications right next door.

"With our new capabilities, we serve a lot more people," said Tech. Sgt. Renee Reidy, 633rd Medical Group cardiology lab noncommissioned officer in charge. "We can do ultrasounds, echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, stress testing and more."

The cardiology clinic provides so many services because of the complex processes within the heart. If a patient comes in with suspected heart concerns, one of the first steps for diagnosis comes in the form of an electrocardiogram, or EKG.

An EKG measures the electronic impulses from the heart and interprets them in a way that allows a doctor or technician to gauge if a heart is irregular.

"The EKG is really the first line of defense," said Reidy. "We see roughly 10 to 15 patients a day for an EKG."

Patients with other problems, or those who have irregular EKG reports, may qualify for an echocardiogram or even stress testing.

"An echocardiogram is very similar to an ultrasound that pregnant women might receive," said Reidy. "In addition to the ultrasound, however, there is a Doppler capability that allows us a more accurate assessment of blood flow and other vitals."

Essentially, an echo reading gives technicians and doctors a window to the heart, providing them with real-time data to use in a diagnosis. With the combined capability of sound, professionals can detect issues that may be difficult to pick up visually.

Having this data is paramount to successfully diagnose a patient with an acute problem that may cause problems down the road.

After interpreting data from the echocardiogram, patients may undergo stress testing to gather more accurate information on their condition.

"Stress testing is when we put patients through some sort of cardio-intensive exercise and then begin an echocardiogram," said Reidy. "This way we can determine the heart is healthy at various levels of activity."

Although the cardiology department has the tools to diagnose patients and help treat some problems, sometimes a patient requires special treatment or surgery not available at Langley. For Maj. Joshua Durham, 633rd Medical Group cardiologist, this dilemma doesn't stop him from his continuity of care commitment.

"I go down to [Naval Medical Center Portsmouth] when one of my patients needs additional treatment," said Durham. "It is important that they have continuity of care, especially when they may undergo a serious surgery."

Although continuity of care is important to Durham, he believes the main mission of troop readiness supersedes all.

"Being able to keep troops ready to deploy means a lot to me," said Durham. "It is rewarding to see them reassured and fit to fight."

With such specialized and knowledgeable Airmen manning the cardiology clinic, it is clear patients at Langley will always be in cardiac "at-rest."