National Heart Month event Feb. 20 at Salem Health CHEC

If you’ve ever raced up a flight of stairs or chased a tennis ball, you know what a racing heart feels like. For 2.6 million Americans, this feeling is a way of life.

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is the fastest-growing heart disease in our community, according to Salem Health Cardiology Services. That’s the bad news. The good news? Local cardiologists are ready to treat this disease with the latest technology and expertise right here in Salem.

Salem Health Cardiology Services Director Brandon Schmidgall says thanks to a large donation by the Salem Health Foundation and collaboration with independent cardiologists, Salem Health has added the latest heart monitoring and treatment equipment, will soon add another surgery suite — and more cardiologists to keep up with demand.

National Heart Month special event
To learn more about how Salem Health is leading the way with A-fib treatment, attend I Got Rhythm, a presentation by Oregon Heart Center cardiologist Matthew Fedor, MD, on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Salem Health CHEC. The free event starts at 4 p.m. and is open to all in recognition of National Heart Month — and will include booths and displays, wellness information and a heart-healthy cooking demonstration. Register to attend by calling the CHEC at 503-814-2432.

More about A-fib
The first option to curb A-fib is usually medication to control heart rate and/or rhythm. If that fails, a non-invasive procedure called an “ablation” is done by an electrophysiologist (a physician who specializes in these procedures) in a catheterization lab. Using a guided catheter, physicians destroy (ablate) the tissue that causes irregular rhythm, thus restoring the heart to a normal rhythm.

“A-fib treatment is among the most technically advanced and complicated procedures we perform in the cath lab,” Schmidgall said, noting that physicians are precisely guided to the “misfiring” heart tissue sites by a digital map, where they can “burn” (with radio-frequency) or “freeze” tissue (with cryoablation), often a combination of both.

The best right here in Salem
“If you have a procedure here, about 10 experts surround you, including two MDs, even reps from our equipment vendors,” said Valli Brunken, Salem Health cath lab manager. She noted that technologists have on average 10 to 20 years’ experience. “Rather than compete with each other, providers collaborate for the best outcomes, which results in the best care. You won’t be in better hands.”

Salem Health took a rare glimpse into A-fib from a personal point of view. Read the story of three staff members written by “survivor” Shannon Priem on Salem Health’s Facebook page.

Salem Health — an OHSU Partner — offers exceptional care to people in and around Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley. It is comprised of hospitals in Salem and Dallas, a medical group of primary and specialty care providers, plus other affiliated services. “Like” us on; follow us on Twitter: @salemhealth; and view us at