Overview of the Program
The Elizabeth Anne and Karen Barlow Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital provides a unique clinical service—cardiac care designed specifically for women. Because there are differences in the way men and women present heart disease, it is important to have specialists fluent in diagnosing and treating female patients.
This dedicated clinic focuses on all aspects of cardiology, from preventive approaches to complex conditions such as spontaneous coronary artery dissection. Specialists meet with women of all adult ages to discuss their current condition or their risk for heart disease.
Diagnosis & Treatments: Multidisciplinary Care
Once a patient enters the program, she is assigned a health care team to help make necessary lifestyle changes to lower her cardiovascular risks and stay healthy. Should a patient need surgery, a cardiac surgeon also becomes part of the team.
Specialists guide patients every step of the way to ensure they receive the best possible care. Patients are also directed to wellness programs both on-site and within their own communities. Such programs include:
- Nutrition counseling
- One-on-one exercise sessions
- Stress management and relaxation training
- Smoking cessation programs
- Other specialized cardiac programs within the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center
At the first visit to the Corrigan Women's Heart Health Program, physicians ask patients questions about their personal and family medical history. Specialists then assess basic risk factors by checking:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- ACC/AHA cardiovascular risk calculator with consideration of risk enhancers for women
- Body mass index (BMI)
If these initial tests show that a patient is at risk, physicians might schedule further testing. Additional tests include:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG): This test is an electrical tracing of the heart rhythm. Specialists perform an EKG to determine whether or not there is any evidence of a rhythm disturbance or prior heart attack
- Exercise electrocardiogram: This test evaluates how a woman's heart responds to the increased demands of exercise. It gives information about level of fitness and is a good screening test for coronary artery disease. This can be done alone or paired with an imaging test such as nuclear scanning or echocardiography
- Echocardiograms: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart and provides a great deal of information about the function of the heart muscle and valves. It can show whether or not an individual has had a prior heart attack or heart changes caused by high blood pressure
- Cardiac CT: This test examines the coronary arteries and provides information about the calcium content of the coronary arteries and whether or not significant blockages are present in the arteries
Specialists also perform cardiac catheterization. This test examines possible coronary artery blockages and provides valuable information about pressures within the heart. If a coronary artery blockage is identified, treatment with a coronary stent (a tube that holds the artery open) can be performed at the same time.
Since February of 2007, the Elizabeth Anne and Karen Barlow Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program has addressed heart disease in women. This unique program has a close relationship with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, an initiative that encourages awareness and action among women in the fight against heart disease.
Advocates for Preventing Heart Disease
Our specialists engage in advocacy efforts to prevent heart disease in women. Several of these efforts include:
- Educating women and health care providers about heart disease in women and improving women's heart health
- Promoting research to benefit women with cardiovascular disease
- Identifying gender-based disparities in cardiovascular care and using these findings to improve outcomes for women with heart disease
Access to Advanced Treatments
Specialists at the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program focus on all aspects of heart care from prevention to early detection and treatment. Our patients have access to the most advanced diagnostics and treatments available throughout the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center.
Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Service
Cardiologists specializing in women's heart health, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy and performance athletes work closely with our maternal-fetal medicine specialists and anesthesiologists to guide patients through planning, pregnancy and delivery.
Our doctors and staff provide individualized care and treatment plans for patients before, during and after pregnancy including:
- Patients with pre-existing heart conditions or disease
- Patients without history of heart disease who develop heart-related conditions during pregnancy such as arrhythmias or heart failure
- Patients who develop pregnancy-related conditions that may increase risk of heart disease later in life including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and hypertension
- Patients who wish to continue advanced exercise training during pregnancy
Learn more about pregnancy's effect on the heart >
Cardiometabolic Health and Hormones Clinic
Reproductive hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and androgen play a vital role in cardiovascular health. Our doctors and staff have expertise in the interaction of both natural (endogenous) and synthetic (exogenous) hormones with cardiometabolic health and cardiovascular disease. We provide individualized care for:
- Women with heart disease or at risk for heart disease as they transition through menopause
- Young women with existing cardiovascular disease who are considering using hormonal contraceptives
- Individuals with heart disease or at risk for heart disease who are starting or taking gender affirming therapy
Our doctors work with each patient's primary care and primary cardiologists to provide:
- Individualized cardiac risk assessment and treatment
- Risk assessment of hormone therapies and gender affirming therapies for patients with existing heart disease or with risk factors for heart disease
- Comprehensive evidence-based guidance for cardiovascular disease prevention for peri- and post-menopausal women
- Risk assessment for young women with cardiovascular disease considering hormone contraceptives
Clinical Trials/Research Studies