Keeping the Beat

The arrival of a new specialist means no more out-of-town travel is needed for patients needing a device that keeps their heart beating in time.

With a history of heart problems hanging over his head, Bradley Bowen thinks of the small device he now has under his skin as something akin to “my insurance policy.”

That’s one way to put it. He could also call the implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) he now wears a mechanical guardian angel. Its job is to keep track of Bowen’s heart rate and shock his heart back into a normal rhythm if it begins beating chaotically or too fast.

ICDs have been used effectively in the care of heart patients for many years, but Bowen is the first resident of the Gorge to benefit from having the device implanted locally.

Until heart specialist Dr. Bassel Beitinjaneh joined MCMC Cardiology last summer, area patients had to travel to Portland for the procedure.

Bowen’s device was implanted at Mid-Columbia Medical Center and required only an overnight stay. About the size of a pocket watch, ICDs are placed in the left upper chest with one or two leads attached to the heart.

It’s a relatively simply procedure but requires the expertise of a heart specialist called an electrophysiologist. While MCMC cardiologists have implanted pacemakers for years, Dr. Beitinjaneh’s electrophysiology training adds a new dimension to the range of heart care available locally.

According to Dr. Beitinjaneh, “The ICD is effective in the care of patients who, based on studies, have been determined at high risk of sudden cardiac death, which occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions and it suddenly stops beating.

“It has two primary functions,” he adds.

“It can shock the heart back into normal rhythm when medications have proved ineffective or, in some devices, it also has a pacemaker feature and can pace the heart out of a bad rhythm.”

“The device is a useful prevention tool, regardless of whether the patient has experienced abnormal rhythms before,” says Dr. Beitinjaneh. “A patient may not have experienced abnormal rhythms before, but if they have had a heart attack they are at higher risk of having one of these sudden cardiac incidences. And a lot of people don’t survive them.”

Bowen hadn’t experienced abnormal heart rhythms before, but The Dalles resident has had plenty of other bad experiences related to his health. The 58 year old has lived with diabetes all his life. As a young man he worked as a metal fabricator in an aircraft plant. He also logged and cleared roads. But in his late 20s he was forced to retire after diabetes claimed enough of his sight to make him legally blind.

His father also had heart problems but, Bowen says wryly, “I was lucky enough to get them earlier in my life than he did.” He had bypass surgery 17 years ago, then more recently, on Oct. 4, Bowen had “a seizure of some kind.” He wound up in the hospital, where he suffered a heart attack. Once he recovered, he started having fainting spells. “I would stand up then just fall over like a brick,” he says.

That led to the office of Dr. Beitinjaneh, who says Bowen’s prior heart problems put him at risk of the irregular heart rhythms the ICD can detect and stop before they become potentially deadly. The ICD will watch over his heart for about 10 years before its battery needs to be replaced.

Bowen says he doesn’t even notice the ICD, but is glad to know it’s there, making sure his heart doesn’t skip a beat.

Heart Specialist Accepting Patients

Bassel Beitinjaneh, M.D., is accepting new patients into his cardiology practice in The Dalles.

Dr. Beitinjaneh is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases. He also practices cardiac electrophysiology.

After completing his residency training at Saint Louis University, Dr. Beitinjaneh moved to Portland and OHSU in order to pursue training in cardiology, advanced heart failure and transplantation, in addition to cardiac electrophysiology

His general practice focus is on the treatment of patients with abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, and treating and managing heart failure and coronary artery disease.

Special interests and training include device therapy, radio frequency and cryoballoon ablation of atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardias and ventricular tachycardia, as well as treating cryptogenic stroke, and the prevention of sudden cardiac death.

He is also trained in the insertion and management of pacemakers, defibrillators, and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices, and in the ablation of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias.

Dr. Beitinjaneh is married and has two children. In his free time he enjoys being with his family and friends. He also tries to take advantage of the beautiful Pacific Northwest outdoors as much as possible.

Dr. Beitinjaneh is in practice with fellow cardiologists Drs. David Guarraia and Kevin Wei at Water’s Edge, 551 Lone Pine Blvd, in The Dalles. Appointments can be made by calling 541.506.6530.