Women's Heart Services
At Allegheny Health Network’s (AHN) Women’s Heart Center, our cardiologists recognize that heart disease and its symptoms appear differently in women than men. We use diagnostic methods and provide treatments uniquely tailored for a woman’s specific health concerns.
Diagnosing heart disease in women
Depending on your specific risk factors and personal health history, our cardiologists may use one or more diagnostic tools to assess heart disease in women:
- Blood tests: These tests identify high cholesterol and inherited abnormalities in cholesterol that increase heart disease risk. Blood tests also check for high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). Women with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are more prone to high CRP levels, which can contribute to plaque buildup and narrowing of arteries.
- Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring: A device records your blood pressure for 24 hours. This test identifies “white coat hypertension,” or high blood pressure that comes on at the doctor’s office.
- Exercise stress echocardiogram (ECG): The American Heart Association recommends this initial diagnostic test to determine if coronary artery blockages are causing chest pain. A heart specialist monitors your heart’s electrical activity while you walk slowly on a treadmill.
- Nuclear stress test: Also called myocardial perfusion imaging, this test shows blood flow through the heart, as well as your heart’s pumping action.
- Carotid ultrasound: This noninvasive imaging test uses sound waves to check for calcium plaque deposits in the carotid arteries in your neck.
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMRI): This highly advanced, noninvasive imaging test provides 3-D pictures and video of heart chambers, valves, and blood vessels as your heart pumps blood. AHN was among the first in the country to identify CMRI as a superior method of diagnosing heart disease in women.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This nuclear heart scan reveals heart tissue damage. It also shows blood flow and supply to your heart when combined with a stress test. This test helps detect microvascular disease, which is common in women.
- Cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan for calcium scoring: Special X-ray equipment reveals calcium plaque deposits that can narrow and block coronary arteries.
Treating women's heart problems
As part of AHN’s Cardiovascular Institute, cardiologists at the Women’s Heart Center provide some of the most advanced treatment options for a wide range of heart problems, including:
- Arrhythmia: In addition to device therapy, which includes pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD), we also perform advanced ablation procedures to treat arrhythmia.
- Heart valve disease: AHN is among a select group of medical centers nationwide offering the MitraClip® device for mitral valve regurgitation. Our physicians use a minimally invasive catheter procedure to implant MitraClip. We also offer minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacements (TAVR), replacing heart valves without opening the chest. Find out more about heart valve disease.
- Heart failure: We offer a comprehensive suite of mechanical circulatory support devices, including ventricular assist devices (VAD) and ICDs. If your heart failure is severe enough to warrant a heart transplant, AHN is a national pioneer in using the SynCardia artificial heart as a temporary bridge-to-transplant option. In addition, our heart transplant surgeons have higher than average success rates.