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Focus on the cardiac cath lab

Network - Fall 2012

Jean-Bernard Durand, M.D.


We asked Jean-Bernard Durand, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Cardiology, to tell us about MD Anderson’s state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization lab.

What is a cardiac catheterization lab?

It’s a diagnostic and interventional suite where we perform tests to discover any abnormalities of the heart prior to, during or after exposure to cancer treatment.

Why is it important for MD Anderson to have one?

The number one cause of death after surviving cancer is heart disease.
MD Anderson is the world leader in treating complications that have developed from cancer-related treatment. This experience helps us identify and treat heart disease early so patients can continue to have a wonderful life after cancer treatment.

We also want to assure a continuum of care to our patients, many of whom are too ill to have these serious heart complications treated elsewhere.

What’s one example of a problem that your cath lab is especially equipped to deal with?

One-quarter of our patients have low platelets, which can cause prolonged bleeding times. Most labs wouldn’t consider performing catheterizations on such patients, but we’re treating them safely and effectively. Our experience and published data suggest that these are very high-risk patients who need to be evaluated in a center staffed by cardiologists with substantial knowledge of the interaction between cancer and heart disease.

How does cancer or its treatment affect patients’ cardiac health?

Cancer can develop within the heart, or some cancers, such as breast, lymphoma or sarcoma, may travel to the heart and cause symptoms. Many cancer therapies affect the heart muscle. Also, radiation can injure all structures of the heart: its muscle, valves, coronaries and electrical system.

How does the team’s work in the lab improve patient outcomes?

Early identification and diagnosis of heart disease allows us to intervene early and minimize side effects during and after chemotherapy. Members of the cath lab team have extensive experience in cardiovascular disease.

What kinds of research are going on in the lab?

We’re investigating all aspects of how the heart is injured and its ability to protect itself from further injury. We have extensive protocols that evaluate blood flow through the coronaries and determine the need for treatment with a stent (metal coil) to prevent a heart attack during chemotherapy or surgery. We’re also studying the microscopic changes that occur from chemotherapy and how that may predict the heart’s ability to repair itself.

Your small but experienced team has treated more than 1,000 patients. What do you see for the future of the lab?

We have plans to pursue treatment of cardiac tumors with minimally invasive strategies and also to develop methods to identify early injury to the heart. We have a new cardiologist trained in electrophysiology who’ll introduce new therapies to prevent sudden cardiac death, treatment of heart failure and electrical rhythms. Also, MD Anderson is well prepared to introduce stem cell therapy to repair heart tissue.

For more information about the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, call 713-792-4015 or call askMDAnderson at 1-877-632-6789. Appointments require a physician’s referral.
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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center