"In the 25 years since I started my practice," says James Calvin, MD, director of the Section of Cardiology at Rush University Medical Center, "treatments for pulmonary hypertension have come a long way." As a result, patients with pulmonary hypertension — high blood pressure in the arteries that lead from the heart to the lungs — can stay healthier and live longer than ever before.
To do so, however, they need doctors with deep knowledge of the many cardiovascular and respiratory problems linked to the uncommon disease. (By forcing the heart to work too hard to pump blood, it can eventually lead to heart failure, among other potentially fatal complications.) That's why Calvin collaborated with Rajive Tandon, MD, a pulmonologist, and Claudia Gidea, MD, a cardiac imaging specialist, to pool the necessary expertise in one place: the Rush Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic.
Putting Their Heads Together
At the clinic, which opened earlier this year, patients can meet with a cardiologist and a pulmonologist on the same day, in the same office. This arrangement enables the physicians to work in consultation with each other, providing patients with care that comprehensively addresses their multifaceted illness. "Because the disease is so complicated, it’s likely patients will have problems that require more than one specialist," Calvin says. "Now, with the clinic, we can put our heads together to come up with a solution."
They tailor each solution to the patient's illness. And the illness, which occurs when pulmonary blood vessels become blocked or damaged, can vary widely from patient to patient. It stems from a broad range of problems, including heart attack, lung disease and HIV; sometimes, it has no identifiable cause.
Treatments include surgery and a variety of medications, including recently developed oral therapies that widen blood vessels or stop them from narrowing. These oral therapies, Calvin says, represented an important advance in treatment, freeing many patients from medications that had to be continuously administered intravenously.
Right Time, Right Doctor
Whatever the treatment, the clinic allows doctors to administer it more quickly and effectively than they otherwise could.
"The patient can see the exact right person at the exact right time," Tandon says. "And that’s important because patients' time is very precious."
To help patients maximize the value of the time they spend at Rush, the clinic tries to streamline every part of the treatment process. Staff members, for example, help patients enroll in programs that could help them receive discounts on certain medications.
"The idea of the clinic is more than just medical," Calvin says. "It’s about managing the disease in the long term."
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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.
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