Frequently Asked Questions

1. What services do we offer at Heart Care Victoria?

For a list of services we offer at Heart Care Victoria, please see our Procedures and Testing page or you can Contact Us to speak to one of our friendly staff.

2. Do I need a referral?

it is essential to have a valid referral to be able to claim a rebate from Medicare Australia. Having a referral also means we are able to process an online Medicare claim.

3. How long does a referral remain current?

A referral from a specialist only remains current for 3 months. A referral from a General Practitioner remains current for 12 months, unless otherwise specified by your GP.

4. Does my cardiologist need to see the referral first?

You are required to bring your referral with you to your first appointment.
Some specific cardiologists and services require your referral to be seen prior to the confirmation of your appointment. Our clinic staff will advise you if this is necessary.

5. Will I be able to claim my out of pocket expense with my healthcare fund?

Healthcare fund claiming is only available for inpatient services. Your health fund and Medicare may not fully cover our fees and consequently you may be required to make an out of pocket / known gap payment for inpatient services.

Genesis HeartCare shares a long partnership with Bupa means that as a member, you will be part of a great program that aims to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cardiovascular disease. It also guarantees no out-of-pocket expenses for services from Genesis HeartCare cardiologists when you're admitted into hospital. Click here for more information.

6. What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is one of Australia's leading health problems and creates a significant health and financial burden across Australia.

CVD refers to diseases of the heart and blood vessels and includes conditions such as coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease and hypertension.

For more information on CVD, please visit The Australian Heart Foundation.

7. What if I'm experiencing chest pain?

If you have chest pain you MUST seek medical advice.

If you have severe chest pain, contact your General Practitioner. If your doctor cannot be contacted immediately then you should ring an Ambulance – dial' 000' for an ambulance.

  • You will be asked which service you require – Ambulance, Fire or Police.
  • Nominate – Ambulance.
  • You will need to tell them your address and the nearest corner.
  • State that you have chest pain.
  • Stay in a semi-reclined position while awaiting the ambulance.

It is advisable to use an ambulance if in the metropolitan area, and not drive yourself.

8. How does the heart work?

The human heart has four chambers. The two upper chambers are called the atria. The two lower chambers are called the ventricles. The atria receive blood returning to the heart, and then push it downward to the ventricles. The ventricles, which are larger and stronger, give departing blood a push outward towards its destination.

The heart has two pumps - the right side receives deoxygenated blood from the body and pumps blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen; the much stronger left ventricle takes oxygenated blood coming back from the lungs and circulates it to the rest of the body. Blood flows through the body in an endless figure eight loop.

  • The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs so it can get oxygen.
  • Blood returning from the lungs arrives in the left atrium which pushes it downward to the left ventricle.
  • The left ventricle pumps blood out to the rest of the body where oxygen will be used by muscles and other tissues to do their work.
  • Blood returning from various parts of the body arrives in the right atrium. From there it goes to the right ventricle and then to the lungs so it can get more oxygen and the cycle continues.
  • Blood circulates in two loops as it flows through the heart.

In a healthy, resting adult the heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute. This amounts to 104,000 beats in 24 hours or about 2.5 billion beats in an average lifetime of 70 years.

A normal heart recirculates the 5 to 6 litres of blood in the body every 1.5 minutes. This amounts to over 7,000 litres pumped each day. During strenuous activity, a healthy heart must pump 4 to 7 times its normal output.

9. What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in the arteries as the heart pumps it around the body.
Blood pressure is usually measured by wrapping an inflatable pressure cuff around the upper arm. The cuff is connected to a pressure measuring device called a sphygmomanometer. It is best to measure blood pressure when you are relaxed and sitting or lying down.

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, for example, 120/80. The larger number indicates the pressure in the arteries as the heart squeezes out blood during each beat. It is called the systolic blood pressure. The lower number indicates the pressure as the heart relaxes before the next beat. It is called the diastolic blood pressure.

Blood pressure does not stay the same all the time. It is always changing to meet our body's needs. If a reading is high, your doctor will measure your blood pressure again on several occasions to confirm the level. Your doctor may also recommend that you measure your blood pressure at home or take a recording with a monitoring device. If the blood pressure remains high it can cause serious problems like a heart attack, a stroke, heart failure or kidney disease.

High blood pressure usually does not have warning signs. You can have high blood pressure and feel perfectly well. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is by having it checked regularly.
Smoking, high blood cholesterol, being overweight and Diabetes all increase the risks of serious problems associated with high blood pressure:

10. What is angina?

Angina is a pain, tight feeling, heaviness, pressure or burning sensation usually felt across the chest. It may radiate to the arms, back, neck or jaw. It commonly occurs with exercise or emotional upset and resolves with rest.

The main cause of angina is narrowing of the coronary arteries, reducing blood supply and oxygen to the heart muscle. This is why angina often occurs when the heart needs more oxygen and the body is under stress. Coronary artery narrowing is usually due to deposits of fats and cholesterol in the arteries.

Smoking, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and a family history of premature heart disease (in a 1st degree relative) all lead to a higher chance of getting coronary artery disease.

11. What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation (AF), or Arrhythmia is a common cardiac rhythm condition that is seen increasingly with age (especially over age 60). The normal electrical trigger for the heart beat in the top chambers (atria) of the heart becomes disrupted by rapid, erratic electrical signals that result in a quivering motion of the top chambers rather than the regular pumping action.

AF leads to an increased risk of a blood clot forming in the top chambers of the heart (in particular, the left atria) which, if it dislodges and travels to the brain, results in a stroke.

12. What is basic life support?

Basic life support (BLS) is a lifesaving technique that involves chest compressions combined with rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth). BLS can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs, preventing permanent brain damage (which can occur within a few minutes).

Many people do not attempt BLS because they fear that they may do more harm than good. Remember, if someone is unresponsive, there is nothing you can do to make the situation any worse – any attempt is better than none.

13. What is Warfarin?

Warfarin is a drug used to reduce the risk of blood clotting. The natural antidote to Warfarin is Vitamin K, which is found in leafy green vegetables. If you are taking Warfarin, it is safe to eat green vegetables, but you should try to maintain a steady quantity in your diet. Alcohol can be used safely in small quantities.

Warfarin is not a new drug, and has been used in patients for many years. Although it is the active ingredient in Ratsak, it is safe to use in people when prescribed in very measured doses. It is used in patients who are at risk of forming blood clots that could lead to stroke, heart attack, or thrombosis in the legs or lungs. Warfarin is only prescribed with other anticlotting drugs like Aspirin in specific circumstances.

Warfarin is safe when monitored closely by your doctor. It has few major side effects which include risk of bleeding, that is, Warfarin will make you bleed more freely if you cut or injure yourself. Patients on Warfarin do have low but increased annual risk of major bleeding compared to people taking regular Aspirin (<2.0% vs 1.0%).

Patients on Warfarin also have a slightly greater risk of intra-cranial (inside the brain) bleeding when compared to people taking Aspirin (0.3%vs 0.1% pa). This risk is higher in the very elderly, and in people with a history of recent stroke and poorly controlled hypertension. Despite this, the risk of intracranial bleeding is substantially lower (>10x) than the risk of stroke due to other causes that Warfarin helps prevent.

Hence, Warfarin has a clear net protective effect against stroke compared to Aspirin or other therapy in selected patients at risk of stroke.

14. Stroke

A stroke is a condition in which brain cells suddenly die because of a lack of oxygen. This can be caused by an obstruction in blood flow, such as a blood clot, or the rupture of an artery that feeds the brain.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) can be a cause of stroke. In AF, the upper chambers of the heart quiver rapidly instead of performing their normal pumping action. This may allow blood to stagnate and blood clots to form inside the heart.

The majority of cardiac blood clots form within an appendage attached to the left upper chamber of the heart. If a blood clot dislodges and travels to the brain, a stroke may result.

Some people may go through their lives with Atrial Fibrillation and never have a stroke, but others will. Several characteristics seem to increase a person's risk of having a stroke, including:

  • History of high blood pressure, even when treated.
  • Diabetes.
  • Increasing age (in particular those over 75 years old).
  • Having heart failure or weakened heart pump function.
  • A history of a prior stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

In general, the more risk factors, the higher the risk of stroke. The risk of having a stroke each year varies from around 1% for people with no risk factors, through to about 17% for a person with all of the risk factors.

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