• What exactly are congenital heart defects?

    Congenital heart defects include a range of structural problems that can have minor or complex effects. For patients with congenital heart defects, early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent complications, while long-term cardiac care may be needed in other cases. What exactly are these defects, and how are they treated? Here is what you need to know.

    Congenital heart defects 101
    Congenital heart defects are defects in the structure of the heart that are present at birth. About eight in 1,000 newborns have a congenital heart defect, and over 1 million adults in the US are living with this kind of heart defect.

    There are many different kinds of congenital heart defects, including these common types:

    • Septum defect (hole in the heart)

    • Narrowed valves

    • Tetralogy of Fallot

    • Patent ductus arteriosus

    Although heredity may play a role, the cause of many congenital heart defects is not known.

    Symptoms
    In some cases, congenital heart defects don’t cause any symptoms, particularly if they are mild. In other cases, these symptoms may occur:

    • Cyanosis—blue-tinged skin, fingernails, and lips

    • Rapid breathing

    • Fatigue with light physical activity

    • Swelling of the ankles, legs, and abdomen

    In most cases, doctors diagnose severe heart defects soon after birth, because the symptoms are obvious. With a mild defect, a diagnosis may not be made until later in life.

    Treatments
    Treatments for congenital heart defects depend on the type of defect. For simple defects that are not causing any symptoms, no treatment at all may be necessary, and instead, physicians may monitor the condition.

    For complex congenital heart defects, there are a number of different treatments available, including surgery, catheter procedures, and medication. In some cases, multiple surgeries over the course of several years may be necessary. In very rare circumstances, babies born with multiple congenital defects may need a heart transplant.

    The West Hills Regional Heart & Vascular Institute at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center offers nationally accredited cardiac care around the clock, while our world-class NICU provides the specialized care babies born with congenital defects may need. To get answers to your questions about our cardiac care services in West Hills, please call (818) 676-4321.

  • How to prepare for labor and delivery

    Labor and delivery are thrilling—and often a little scary—for moms-to-be. Getting prepared for the day you give birth is a good first step in having the most positive experience possible. As your due date approaches, here are some things you can do to ensure that you are as prepared for labor and delivery as possible.

    Get educated
    Finding out as much as you can about the process of labor and delivery will help you feel more confident and empowered to make decisions about what is right for you. At your obstetrics appointments, bring lists of questions you want to ask and look into classes for expecting mothers at your birthing center.

    Be wary about information you get from friends or from internet surfing. Friends often tend to highlight any negative parts of their labor experiences, which could make you more anxious. Surfing the internet could lead you to incorrect information or information that is not relevant to your situation.

    Tour the birthing center
    Seeing the birthing center can alleviate many of your concerns about what to expect. Many birthing centers offer tours so women and their families can see where labor and delivery happens and get comfortable with the space. Tours also provide a chance to ask questions of the healthcare team.

    These tours can be especially helpful for women who are anxious about the idea of being in a hospital. Birthing centers are positive, cheerful places, and are much different than what many people envision when they think of hospital settings. Seeing this in person may put your mind at ease.

    Create a birth plan
    Work with your physician to create a plan for your birth that works for you. By creating this plan, you will get a chance to tell your physician what is important for you during your labor and delivery, and your physician will be able to explain what is and isn’t possible for you based on your medical needs.

    New Beginnings Maternal and Newborn Care program at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center provides a nurturing environment for new moms and their newborns throughout labor, delivery, and aftercare. Request a tour, learn more about our maternity care in West Hills , or get a referral to a provider by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning at home

    Carbon monoxide poisoning is a dangerous condition that turns deadly for hundreds of families each year. The risk of poisoning goes up during the winter months, thanks to the use of space heaters and portable generators. By knowing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and taking steps to reduce the risk of it happening in your home, you can prevent the need for emergency care and maybe even save lives. Here are some things you can do to keep your family safe.

    Know the signs
    Recognizing the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can help you take fast action to get the emergency care needed. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be confused with other conditions, but it is always best to err on the side of caution and get checked out if you have these symptoms:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Confusion
    • Chest pain

    If more than one family member is exhibiting these symptoms, it’s more likely to be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning than if only one member of your family is feeling sick. This could indicate the presence of carbon monoxide in your home.

    Get a detector
    Just as a smoke alarm can save you during a fire, a carbon monoxide alarm can save you when this dangerous gas is present. There should be alarms on each level of your house, particularly near bedrooms.

    Because carbon monoxide is invisible and odorless, you won’t know it is there unless an alarm tells you. Your alarm can give the early warning you need to prevent symptoms from developing.

    Be cautious with potential carbon monoxide sources
    If you have gas appliances in your home, make sure trained professionals regularly service them. Never use portable, flameless chemical heaters or charcoal grills indoors. Use the extractor vent when you are using a gas stove.

    If you have a fireplace, have the chimney cleaned annually, and make sure the flues are open any time you start a fire.

    West Hills Hospital and Medical Center provides emergency care 24 hours per day, seven days per week, for all of your urgent medical needs. You can learn more about our emergency room and all of our hospital services in West Hills by calling (818) 676-4321.

  • Knowing when to schedule important women’s health screenings

    Preventive health screenings are an essential part of an overall wellness plan for women. Although your personal health history will dictate when and how often you need certain screening tests, there are some general guidelines to help you understand what kind of schedule you should follow. Here is a look at some screenings that most women can benefit from having and the recommended timeline for having them. Be sure to consult with your own women’s health specialist to make the right decisions for your needs.

    Mammograms
    Mammograms are X-ray screenings of your breast tissue. They are performed to look for abnormal changes that could indicate the presence of cancerous or precancerous cells. Mammograms, along with clinical breast exams, play a central role in preventive care for breast cancer.

    Most women should begin having mammograms between ages 40 and 50 every one to two years. However, if you have a personal or family history of breast cancer or other risk factors, your physician may recommend that you begin your screenings earlier or that you have them more often.

    Pap tests and HPV screenings
    These tests are usually done in conjunction with each other during well woman gynecological exams. Pap tests look for signs of cervical cancer, while HPV screenings are used to help women understand their risk of cervical cancer.

    These tests should usually begin by age 21. Between the ages of 21 and 29, women should have a Pap test every three years. Between 30 and 65, women should have a Pap and HPV test every five years or a Pap test only every three years. More frequent testing is usually not recommended for women unless they have an elevated risk of cervical cancer.

    Colonoscopies
    A colonoscopy is performed to spot signs of colorectal cancers. During a colonoscopy, polyps that are in the colon may also be removed so that they do not become cancerous.

    Women usually start having colonoscopies at age 50. The time between tests depends on your family history. You may also need earlier screening of colorectal cancer runs in your family.

    As explained in the video, scheduling an appointment for women’s health services in West Hills is easy. Call West Hills Hospital and Medical Center today at (818) 676-4321 to get a referral to the right specialist for your needs.

  • Keeping your knee joints healthy

    Knee pain is an extremely common complaint that causes people to miss days of work and to miss out on their favorite activities. If you’re experiencing knee pain caused by joint damage, an orthopedic surgeon can help you find relief through joint replacement surgery . However, there are also things you can do to protect your joints before this kind of damage occurs. These strategies can reduce joint pain and damage so that you can continue to do the things you love without knee pain.

    Maintain a healthy weight
    Excess weight can put an enormous strain on your knees. Gaining as little as five or ten pounds can put pressure on your joints that causes pain and eventually leads to damage. In fact, excessive weight is one of the leading causes of osteoarthritis.

    Fortunately, even a modest weight loss can make a big difference for your joints. Every pound you lose takes pressure of your joints, which can ease discomfort and protect them from damage.

    Play it safe on the stairs
    Most people have a habit of bounding up and down the stairs. For your knees, this habits means hundreds of pounds of extra pressure with each step, which can lead to serious joint damage.

    Pay attention to the activities you do that could put excessive pressure on your joints, such as running up the stairs, and make adjustments to protect your knees. This includes sticking to walking on pavement, rather than grass. Grassy walkways put pressure on your joints.

    Exercise with your knees in mind
    When you work out, do activities that strengthen the muscles that support your knee joints. For instance, building up your hip abductor muscles on your inner thighs will help to support your knees when you walk.

    Take care to also do activities that are low-stress for your knee joints, such as gentle yoga, swimming, and floor exercises.

    The Total Joint Care Program at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center can have you back on your feet in no time when joint pain is holding you back. Are you struggling with painful joints in West Hills? Call (818) 676-4321 to request a referral to an orthopedic specialist.

  • Is robotic thyroid surgery the right choice for you?

    If you have been referred for thyroid surgery, you may be concerned about the invasiveness of the procedure and the potential scar the surgery could leave on your neck. Robotic surgery could be an option that addresses some of these concerns. Although this approach to thyroid surgery is not right for every patient, it does have some advantages. How do you know if robotic thyroid surgery is right for you? Here is a look at some of the factors that could make you a good candidate.

    You don’t have scar tissue from a previous surgery.
    During robotic thyroid surgery, it is essential for your surgeon to be able to reach your thyroid gland without any obstructions. If you have had previous surgeries on your neck or shoulders, you could have scar tissue that could impede your surgeon’s ability to manipulate the robotic tools.

    Keep in mind that excess weight can also cause the same issues. Your surgeon must determine whether you have fat tissue that could prevent easy access to your thyroid gland.

    Your thyroid meets size and health requirements.
    Robotic thyroid surgery is only recommended for tumors that are no larger than three centimeters in size. Additionally, your thyroid itself must not exceed six centimeters for robotic surgery to be an option.

    Certain health conditions can also make robotic surgery inappropriate. If you have thyroid cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes, substernal disease, or Graves’ disease, your surgeon is unlikely to recommend a robotic procedure.

    You are concerned about scarring.
    Non-robotic thyroid surgery usually requires making an incision in the neck, which leaves behind a linear scar. Patients who are concerned about the cosmetic appearance of this scar may favor robotic surgery.

    Because the cost of robotic thyroid surgery is more than other options, patients often have to balance the price of the procedure with their concerns about visible scarring.

    West Hills Hospital and Medical Center offers multiple robotic surgeries for patients who want a minimally invasive procedure with a faster recovery time. If you need surgical services in West Hills, choose our highly trained team of specialists for your care. For a referral to our surgical team, please dial (818) 676-4321.

  • How to get more exercise with your kids and grandkids

    Getting active with your kids and grandkids is good for the whole family. It helps you protect your heart and orthopedic health , and it helps them get into the habit of incorporating exercise into their day. If you haven’t been as active as you’d like lately, here are some tips for getting back to your exercise regime by joining in with your kids and grandkids.

    Put it on the schedule
    If you haven’t been as active as you’d like lately, here are some tips for getting back to your exercise regime by joining in with your kids and grandkids. Busy days can make it difficult to find the time to exercise. If you put it on your schedule, you’re much more likely to actually get in the activity you want. Carve out a time each day to exercise with them.

    You may decide to set aside 30 minutes per day for a family walk after dinner or designate an hour to go to the park to play basketball a few days per week. When everyone in the family saves this time to be active together, you’ll find it easy to make space in your schedule for exercise.

    Get medical care if you need it
    It’s always a good idea to check in with your physician before you start a new exercise plan, but if you have a specific medical issue that has been keeping you from exercising, take the first step towards relief by addressing it with your doctor.

    For example, if you have knee pain or hip pain, an orthopedist can diagnose the cause and create a treatment plan that works. He or she may recommend certain activities that will ease your pain as well as things you should avoid that could exacerbate your symptoms.

    Make it fun
    The best thing about exercising with your kids and/or grandkids is that you can make it fun. Forget tedious activities like walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike at the gym. Get your kids involved in activities that the whole family will enjoy, such as:

    • Taking a bike ride
    • Going on a hike
    • Playing kickball
    • Dancing

    At West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, our orthopedic and spine specialists can help you life live pain-free as you enjoy your favorite activities. If chronic pain has kept you on the sidelines, call our hospital in West Hills at (818) 676-4321 for a referral to an orthopedic or spine specialist who can help you get back in the game with your kids or grandkids.

  • Should you worry if you’re called back to discuss screening results?

    When you’ve had a cancer screening test , getting a call to come back in to discuss your results can be unnerving. However, the most important thing you can do if you receive such a call is to follow up as soon as you can. Being called to discuss your screening results doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but if you need cancer care, the earlier you can start, the better the results will be.

    Why do I need to discuss my results in person?
    Often, if your physician calls you in to discuss your screening results, it means that you may need further testing. In some cases, part of a screening test, such as dark area on a mammogram, may need to be examined a little more closely.

    The need for a closer look doesn’t mean that there is any abnormality to be concerned about, but rather that your physician needs more information. In some cases, your screening test may simply need to be repeated because the results are unclear. Something as simple as a blurry image could cause the need to discuss your test results.

    How likely is it that an abnormal screening test means cancer?
    The answer to this question varies from hospital to hospital and varies based on the test and the type of cancer. For example, at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, as discussed in the video, the statistics for our mammograms are as follows:

    • About 7% of women are called back to discuss their results and to have further testing each year

    • About 1-2% of those women end up requiring a biopsy

    • Less than 1% of these women have cancerous changes in their breast tissue

    What should I do if I receive a call to discuss my results?
    Schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Addressing the issues sooner rather than later will put your mind at ease. Your physician will explain in full what steps you need to take, up to and including cancer care, when necessary, and he or she can also recommend steps to take if you’re experiencing stress and anxiety .

    The cancer care team at West Hills Hospital & Medical Center is committed to supporting patients throughout the process of facing cancer, from diagnosis through treatment and to recovery. To get more information about cancer care in West Hills or to ask for a specialist referral, please dial (818) 676-4321.

  • Is it safe to have toys in your baby’s crib?

    When you return home from the maternity hospital with your new baby, it’s natural to feel anxious about making sure your newborn’s environment is as safe as possible. One area that can house more safety risks than you might imagine is your baby’s crib. When it comes to cribs, bare is best. Buying toys for babies brings parents joy, but do they belong in the crib? Here is what you need to know to protect your baby.

    What does bare is best mean?
    Anything you put into your baby’s crib could turn into a hazard. That means keeping pillows, heavy blankets, sleep positioners, and toys out of the crib.

    Adding unnecessary items to a crib increases the risk of suffocation and choking, especially in newborns. About half of the deaths that occur in cribs each year are suffocation events caused by having additional items in the crib.

    Is there any safe way to use toys in my baby’s crib?
    Ideally, there shouldn’t be any toys in the crib. If you want to include some, here are some safety guidelines:

    • Choose small toys that can be attached to one side of the crib.
    • Don’t use toys with parts that might detach or that babies can use to pull themselves up.
    • Ensure that toys don’t have any cords that babies could become tangled in.

    Alternatively, simply wait until your baby is at least 18 months before putting any toys in his or her sleeping space. If your baby ever sleeps in a playpen, the same rules apply. Remove the toys from the space when your baby sleeps, and never leave him or her unattended with toys in the playpen.

    At West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, your baby’s safety is as important to us as it is to you. The nurses at our maternity hospital offer extensive post-partum education to help you make the right decisions for your baby’s safety, and should your newborn need medical care, we are home to a world-class NICU . To find out more about our maternity services, please call (818) 676-4321.

  • Knowing if you have a cold or the flu

    When cold and flu season hits, every sniffle and cough could have you wondering which infection you have. Generally, telling the difference between the two based on the symptoms is difficult, and you may need to see a physician to get a definitive answer. Because the flu can lead to serious health problems that require emergency care , it can be helpful to know which illness you have.

    What symptoms do colds and the flu cause?

    Because colds and the flu are both viral, respiratory infections , they cause very similar symptoms. Both can cause:

    • Runny or stuffy nose (although this symptom is slightly more common with colds)
    • Cough
    • Sore throat
    • Fatigue
    • Body aches
    • Fever (although this symptom is more common with the flu)

    Not everyone with a cold or the flu will experience all of these symptoms. Typically, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms.

    Does the color of phlegm hold any clue?

    Many people have heard that they can tell if they have a cold or the flu based on the color of their phlegm. As discussed in the video, clear phlegm is often associated with allergies, while phlegm that is green or yellow usually indicates that you are fighting off some kind of infection, like the flu or a cold. Brown or reddish phlegm can indicate a serious infection.

    The color of your phlegm can be a clue that you have an infection, but it generally doesn’t offer a clear answer as to whether you have the flu, a cold, or another viral or bacterial illness.

    How can I get a definitive answer?

    There are a number of different tests your physician can use to determine if you have the flu. Generally, these tests are most reliable during the early onset of symptoms.

    Your physician may not recommend flu testing unless you have a high risk of complications. For instance, if you have diabetes or another chronic health condition, the flu may be more dangerous for you. In these cases, knowing for sure if you have the flu will help your physician create a treatment plan.

    Whether you need emergency care in West Hills for your symptoms or a physician who help you manage your respiratory infection, choose West Hills Hospital & Medical Center for your treatment. Call us today at (818) 676-4321 for more information about emergency services or a referral to one of our providers .