The Challenge: Family History of Heart Problems
As a healthy, active 23-year-old, Tabby Baer wondered if a cardiologist would take her concerns seriously. While she had no history of heart problems herself, cardiac arrest had affected her family in more ways than one.
Cardiac arrest happens when the heart suddenly stops beating because of a problem with its electrical system.
Without a heartbeat, blood can’t flow to the rest of the body, leading to death within minutes.
In some cases, prompt treatment with an automated external defibrillator (AED) or CPR can reverse cardiac arrest, but it's often fatal.
In 2015, one of Tabby’s aunts survived sudden cardiac arrest. But nearly a year later, her father died from it.
Tabby knew she needed answers about her own risk.
The Path to UPMC: Cardiac Genetic Testing
Both of her aunts tested positive for a rare genetic mutation — a change in their genes — that affects the heart’s electrical system.
Dr. Dueweke reviewed their medical histories and suggested the same test for Tabby. The results confirmed she had the same mutation and a higher risk for cardiac arrest.
While thinking through the options for Tabby’s treatment, Dr. Dueweke presented her case at the Heart and Vascular Institute’s Collaborative Care Conference.
This weekly meeting uses a secure teleconference system to connect cardiologists throughout UPMC. It allows them to discuss cases, review test results, and talk about patient care options in real time.
“This conference allows a new level of teamwork among cardiologists with different specialties and backgrounds. It's a great resource for all of us,” Dr. Dueweke said. “We debated several options for Tabby’s treatment and came up with a plan based on her history, needs, and lifestyle.”
The Solution: Loop Monitor Implant
A loop recorder is an implanted device that takes constant electrocardiograms (EKGs) to measure the heart’s electrical activity.
Each month, Tabby uploads her results to her care team for review.
If her results show certain changes in her heart's activity, Tabby’s team can take action. They can decide if she needs other treatments, like an implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD).
“It was so comforting to know that I had all these cardiologists working to find the best solution for me,” Tabby said.
She and her husband recently relocated to central Pennsylvania, where Tabby works as a speech language pathologist. She remains grateful for the care she received at UPMC.
Tabby urges others with a family history of heart disease to make sure they address their own risks.
Tabby's treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.
Learn More About Cardiac Arrest Risks and Prevention
UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute: