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Cardiology: Taking Care of Your Heart

By Inese Timuka . 02.02.2010

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Cardiology is absolutely one of the most advanced medical fields in Latvia.

While most people visit Latvia for a relaxing holiday and some sightseeing, there’s always a chance that the harsh realities of life can come into play when medical assistance is needed.
But local doctors can offer more than just emergency help. Cardiologists are probably the most popular doctors in Latvia and their names are well known abroad. Cardiology is absolutely one of the most advanced medical fields in Latvia.

Are they ready?

In these recessionary times, almost every industry is seeing significant losses. While traveling abroad for medical care is not a brand new concept, it’s only in the past few years that the medical tourism industry has exploded.
More and more hospitals in foreign countries have begun to focus their marketing efforts on global clientele and medical tourism companies have been created to help fill the gap between patients’ needs for information, support, and assistance and hospitals’ abilities to devote valuable resources to this area.
More private clinics and doctors are considering promoting their knowledge and services to foreign patients as local demand drops significantly. It is wrong to think that locals are not having health problems anymore; what has changed is that the Latvian government has had to slash expenditure for healthcare in the state budget.
“For sure we have plenty to offer foreign patients,” said Professor Andrejs Erglis at the beginning of our interview.
He is not only a professor of surgery at the P.Stradins Medical University in Riga and Chief of the Latvian Center of Cardiology, but is also President of the Latvian Association of Cardiologists. He agreed that medical tourism is certainly a sphere to be developed, but that it requires serious investments into the improvement of local hospitals.
“There are two completely different things – how to treat a runny nose or heart disease. To start with, specific guidelines should be developed.”
He said that he sees risks if private medicine seriously develops the medical tourism field as the badly needed state hospitals could lose the best specialists. And if state hospitals are filled with foreign patients, then there won’t be enough space for local patients. So either there should be quotas on how many foreign patients can come, or bigger hospitals should be built.

Top cardiologists

Over the years, the Latvian Center of Cardiology has gained a respected reputation worldwide.
“We have tremendous practical experience in cardio-surgery, in the treatment of congenital abnormalities and in new directions in treatment that apply to stem-cell implantation. Cooperation with many universities around the world has been developed and we are in the network of the world’s best cardiologists.”
Erglis added that he receives plenty of email applications from foreign students and young doctors who would like to have the chance to practice in Riga.
“Demand is far higher than the number of places we can offer,” he says.
There is another interesting trend, that a lot of already professional cardiologists are learning new manipulations and techniques from doctors working at the Latvian Center of Cardiology. As Erglis put it: “We don't follow in the paths of foreign cardiologists; cardiology is being created here.”
Taking into consideration the high level of knowledge of the team and the state-of-the-art equipment available, they could increase the number of foreign patients being treated.
“There could be 200 large-scale cardio-operations a year for each doctor at the beginning, and in a few years that could be increased to 500,” Erglis predicted.

Achievements and the future

According to research, the average lifespan in Europe has increased over the past decade between 7.5 and nine years, which is a considerable figure influenced by medicine. Professor Erglis mentioned that he has noticed more and more patients who are becoming responsible and caring more about their health. It is important to understand, he says, that: “Medicine is not expenditure; it is investment!”
Operations performed in Latvia meet high standards, and Erglis says that more and more are made with minimal incisions, meaning that patients are back on their feet in shorter periods of time. He stressed that this method is used for patients who have other serious health problems, whose heart problems cannot be treated in the “traditional” way at all.
Heart disease, including myocardial infarction and ischemia, is associated with the irreversible loss of cardiomyocytes and vasculature and the capacity for the renewal and repair of myocardial tissue is inadequate.
Cell transplantation has emerged as a potentially viable therapeutic approach to directly repopulate and repair the damaged myocardium, and Latvian doctors see this as a great future trend. At the moment, however, these procedures are still in the research stage and are not being offered as procedures to patients.

Foreign patients

Professor Erglis says that it is always hard to predict how much heart surgery can cost as the discipline itself is so complex.
“We cannot always predict the complications that might occur, so surgery can cost anything from 2,000 to 32,000 lats. We found out the prices for operations are at the same level as other European countries, because it depends on the equipment and materials used. However, we should remember that doctors’ fees in Latvian hospitals are much lower than in other western countries, but that the service is usually more attentive.”
Asked to say how foreign patients could start, Erglis said: “Full cardio diagnostics at the Latvian Center of Cardiology’s outpatient and diagnostic department will cost around 500 euros.”
At the outpatient clinic various tests are suggested to get the full picture of the heart and then patients are offered possible solutions. The department is led by professional cardiologist Dr Iveta Mintale.
Potential patients should also remember that Latvia has been part of the European Union for six years, ensuring that all medical services are of the highest order, provided by talented and educated specialists. Add to this the fluency in multiple languages and easy air routes to Riga and you can clearly see a bright future for the treatment of foreign tourists.

Another cardiologist to share his views on cardiology in Latvia is Gundars J. Katlaps, MD

Chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery at McGuire VA Medical Center, Assistant professor of surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University (USA) shared his opinion on the quality of care at the Latvian Center of Cardiology (LKC) and medical travel.

The centre has grown into one of the most modern centers of interventional cardiology in the Northern Europe. More than 4,000 coronary stent procedures and more than 7,000 diagnostic angiograms are performed there every year. The center has a state-of-the-art facility filled with the most advanced technology to perform complex procedures safely. Placing the catheters through the radial artery is routine allowing shorter hospital stay times.  The cardiologists of the LKC are on the cutting edge of the medical science staying involved in many research studies, contributing to new developments in the field.
Well trained and very experienced cardiologists are qualified to perform
any of the procedures on the heart and coronary arteries safely. I personally know Dr Andrejs Erglis and Dr Indulis Kumsars, their skills and work ethics.  If me myself or a friend of mine needed a cardiology consult or intervention, I would trust my health and life to them with confidence.

Sky-rocketing expenses of healthcare has made it less affordable to many people with life-threatening conditions. In the western world some of the expense of healthcare as nothing to do with the quality of care or the service provided. As an alternative the same quality (and sometimes - better) medical, and surgical services can be offered to people who are willing to travel. It has been a relatively recent and rapidly expanding trend for patients and insurance companies all over the world to look for high quality, less expensive options. Some Asian countries and Eastern Europe, including Latvia could be very appealing destinations. Considering proximity, shared cultural values and the excellent product of high quality and relatively low cost Latvia  might be a great destination for patients from the Western Europe and countries of former USSR alike.


BsxhzHgDKvyDtagz 06.03.2013 04:19

My tentative suemmr travel plans for next year oddly enough do include Latvia so I was very happy to see this positive
review, Laura if I get there, I`ll be sure to spend a day at the spa!


zameer nasir 11.10.2015 21:47

Hi Doctor, I am heart patient. I get treatment last couple of year. I want treatment in your country. Please guide me what
you want from my side. If you need my reports i will provide you. please give me appointment. My detail is following as:


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