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For immediate use

Nov. 17, 2003 -- No. 607

UNC physicians, nurse publish ‘how to’ books for patients facing invasive heart procedures

UNC School of Medicine

CHAPEL HILL -- Two new books by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill medical experts are aimed at easing the anxieties of people facing invasive heart procedures such as catheterizations or bypass surgery.

The books, "So You’re Having Heart Cath and Angioplasty" and "So You’re Having Heart Bypass Surgery," are the first two titles in a new surgery series published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

The lead authors of "So You’re Having Heart Cath and Angioplasty," the first title in the series, are Dr. E. Magnus Ohman and Gail Cox. Ohman is the Ernest and Hazel Craige professor of cardiovascular medicine in UNC’s School of Medicine, chief of cardiology and director of the UNC Heart Center. Cox is a cardiology nurse clinician and patient care coordinator.

The lead author of "So You’re Having Heart Bypass Surgery" is Dr. Brett C. Sheridan, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s division of cardiothoracic surgery.

"We enjoyed working on these texts, because there is a paucity of patient education materials like these and we strongly believe that patient empowerment is very important," Ohman said. "The more patients know and understand about their condition and its treatment, the more likely they are to have a successful recovery."

More than 5 million people nationwide annually undergo the procedures covered in the books, said Ohman. About 4 million have heart catheterizations, a diagnostic procedure aimed at determining whether the patient’s arteries are blocked and, if so, how badly. Roughly 1 million have an angioplasty, a procedure to open a blocked artery by inflating a small balloon inside it.

Finally, half a million people undergo heart bypass surgery, which involves taking a small length of artery or vein from elsewhere in the body and grafting it across the blocked coronary artery so blood can bypass the blockage and flow through the graft to oxygen-starved heart muscle.

Both books were originally written by Canadian authors and published in Canada by SCRIPT Medical Press Inc. SCRIPT then sold the U.S. publishing rights to Wiley, which asked Ohman and Sheridan to revise the books for the American market.

"In Canada, they tend to take a longer time between diagnosis and procedure," Sheridan said, explaining why the books needed to be revised. "And so the pace at which patients are moved through the treatment process in the United States is accelerated."

The American version of the heart catheterization book contained more detail about the patient’s involvement in the decision-making process, said Cox.

"We really had to emphasize quite a bit that the patient is alert and oriented throughout the catheterization procedure and basically is aware of everything that is going on, and the discussion of the findings takes place right there."

In addition, patients who undergo catheterization in the United States often have the option of proceeding immediately into an angioplasty. In Canada, patients usually do not receive an angioplasty on the same day as a heart catheterization.

Both books are written in easily understandable terms that guide patients through the various procedures step-by-step. For example, from the introduction to chapter four of the heart catheterization book: "A heart cath can help you and your medical team get the inside story on your heart. By injecting a special dye into the arteries of your heart and looking at the X-ray pictures of your blood vessels on a TV screen in real time, your cardiologist can see which arteries are blocked, where, and how badly."

The books also explain alternative options, so patients can make fully informed choices at every stage of their treatment and recovery. Each also includes a description of who’s who on the hospital staff, an index, a patient diary and a helpful glossary of medical words. For example, and as noted in the heart bypass book, CABG (pronounced "cabbage") stands for "coronary artery bypass graft," the correct medical term for heart bypass surgery.

"I think the books will demystify these procedures and therefore diminish the anxiety and the fear that patients about to undergo them might have," Sheridan said.

Both books are available in bookstores now. More information is available at the Wiley Web site:

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Note: Contact Ohman at (919) 966-5201 or, Cox at (919) 843-3523 or, and Sheridan at (919) 966-3381 or

School of Medicine contact
: Stephanie Crayton-Robinson, (919) 966-2860 or