He keeps the blood pumping

Cardiologist Harry Balian explains that factors leading to cardiac arrest can occur earlier in life.

May 16, 2011|By Kelly Corrigan,

Pointing to a digital screen, Harry Balian — a cardiologist at Glendale Adventist Medical Center — noted damage to his patient’s heart.

“This is a gentleman who is 57. He smokes cigars and he tells me it’s not dangerous because he doesn’t inhale,” Balian said.

The patient had entered the hospital in chest pain, saying he had exercised the night before. But something wasn’t right and a test revealed his heart enzymes had elevated, his heart muscle was injured.


“That means he had a small heart attack,” Balian said.

His “class” was a group of civic and business leaders, Leadership Glendale, who had come by the hospital to observe a procedure.

The patient was given blood thinning medication and Balian and his team inserted a cathode through is groin that traveled to his heart, injecting a dye so the artery would be visible. Pointing to the gray computer screen, Balian asked the members of Leadership Glendale to look closely at an artery where it appeared as if someone had taken a bite of out it.

“There’s basically a block here that ruptured and you have a significant narrowing,” Balian said. “This is what causes a heart attack.”

The half-hour surgery left the patient with a stent holding plaque against the wall of his artery to prevent the wall from collapsing again. The collapse had reduced the artery’s open byway to 90%.

In the future, Balian said stents doctors insert to hold up artery walls will eventually dissolve into the body.

“How do you keep up with the new technology?” Vic Pallos of Leadership Glendale asked.

Balian said he reads, attends conferences and practices evidence-based medicine.

The patient, he added, would likely return to work the following Monday.

But despite the surgery, “He’s probably going to end up smoking again,” Balian said.

One patient, who had two stents surgically implanted, died a few months ago at the hospital after not complying with instructions to take his medications, he added.

“Message is — take care of yourselves,” Balian said to the group. “What you do today is going to show up in your arteries 10 years from now.”

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