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University of South Florida

USF Health’s Neuro Cardiac Program targets the Heart-Brain Connection

We are only beginning to understand the dramatic impact the heart and brain have on each other.

Every day, our heart pumps blood through the blood vessels of our circulatory system. When a stroke occurs, a blockage of blood flow to an area of the brain is greatly reduced or cut off resulting in neurological damage to the body.

Often times, the potential cause of stroke goes unnoticed and possibly missed unless caught during routine examination and screening.  It is important to talk with your provider if you are experiencing episodic palpitations, or a sense of your heart racing, lightheadedness or shortness of breath.

Our team of vascular neurologists, interventional cardiologists, electrophysiologists and cardiac surgeons work together to provide care for patients with neuro cardiac conditions. At USF Health, we are dedicated to studying and providing care for diseases that affect both the nervous system and the cardiovascular system, a unique collaborative effort between the Cardiovascular Sciences and Neurology departments.

“We are excited to have a program like this. Together, we can help patients tackle some of the complexities that lie at the intersection of cardiac and neurologic illness, particularly the role of the cardiovascular system in the development of a stroke,” USF Health Cardiologist Dr. Bibhu Mohanty said.

Why develop a Neuro Cardiac program?

In many cases, stroke is the consequence of underlying cardiac conditions – such as atrial fibrillation or patent foramen ovale (PFO). There is compelling clinical trials research that strongly supports the use of treatments through multi-disciplinary collaboration will both prevent stroke and save patient lives. Putting intelligent minds together in a structured way that also includes patients, allows us to tailor therapies that are patient-specific, scientifically sound and ultimately, the most beneficial.

How does the program work?

A patient can enter the program through multiple care paths: they may be self-referred or referred by their provider as outpatients; they may be seen first in the Neurology clinic or they may be evaluated in the hospital. Diagnostic testing and care coordination for inpatients usually begins while the patient is admitted, with care being transitioned to the outpatient setting in our Neuro Cardiac clinic.  As an outpatient, appointments can be set up to see a neurologist and a cardiologist on the same day if necessary.

We provide coordinated multi-disciplinary care of patients with neuro cardiac illness. This includes diagnostic testing, arrangement of specialty consultation, follow-up, and procedural coordination. As our ability to care for patients has progressed, so has the complexity of diagnostic testing and decision making.  This coordinated care is provided by Dr. Elizabeth Remo, a faculty member at the USF School of Nursing.

“By systematizing our collaborative efforts, our aim is to remove frustration and make it easy for patients to participate in the decision-making process. Our clinical pathways are built to minimize the navigating patients have to do, so they can focus on understanding the “why” and “how” of care being provided,” Dr. Mohanty said.

What is the research focus of the Neuro Cardiac program?

Our primary focus is stroke prevention, which may result from a cardiovascular condition, most commonly, atrial fibrillation and PFO. These conditions lead to clots that can dislodge and travel to the brain to cause a stroke or hemorrhage. We are learning how to understand and diagnose these issues by following clinical outcomes, and most importantly, how to improve the decision-making processes by which physicians and patients make care management decisions.

How can I learn more about clinical trials?

Patients have the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking clinical trials that will give patients access to new treatment approaches. With research as an integral part of advancing care at USF Health, patients will be closely monitored to follow study outcomes, ensure quality and inform further development of USF Health’s Neuro Cardiac program.

In addition, USF Health’s Neuro Cardiac program is one of only four centers in Florida approved to participate in a new international clinical trial, ASAP-TOO, comparing trialompares medication for stroke prevention in patients who are at very high risk of bleeding with conventional blood thinning medications and the Watchman device.  Patients can learn more about clinical trials at https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02928497.

To make an appointment with the USF Health Neuro Cardiac program, call (813) 259-8601.

We are excited to share, our Cardiology department is expanding!  Dr. Jennifer Bennett, Dr. Patrick Chang, Dr. Rachel Harris, Dr. Nicholas Kotch and Dr. Dennis Cassidy are now accepting new patients.

Written By: Kathleen Rogers

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