What is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Plaque build-up in your arteries can cause more than just a heart attack. Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Ajay Mhatre with Cardiovascular Institute in Panama City, Florida explains what Peripheral Arterial Disease (or PAD) is and how it can impact your quality of life or even cause a stroke.

New Procedure Reduces Risk of Stroke for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

Panama City, Fla. (October 12, 2021) — Ascension Sacred Heart Bay is offering a new procedure that could reduce the chance of stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib) not caused by heart valve problems. The cardiovascular team at the hospital began treating patients on Oct. 7 with the procedure to implant an innovative device into the heart.

Dr. Amir Haghighat, an interventional cardiologist, says the procedure, which closes the heart’s left atrial appendage, can benefit a select number of patients with atrial fibrillation who are unable to tolerate long-term blood thinners.

“Strokes are one of the most dreaded complications of atrial fibrillation, and a large number of residents in our area suffer from the arrhythmia,” says Haghighat. “The risk of stroke is five times higher if you have AFib. Now, we can offer this advanced procedure to minimize that risk and keep our patients healthy. ”

The first four cases at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay were successfully performed by three cardiac specialists on the medical staff: Dr. Haghighat, Dr. Nghia Hoang, a cardiac electrophysiologist, and Dr. Samir Patel, an interventional cardiologist.

Patients with AFib are typically required to take blood thinners to prevent blood clots from being formed. Patients that are not able to take blood thinners due to the risk of bleeding and additional complications may be eligible to receive the procedure and discontinue blood thinners. The procedure to implant the WATCHMAN TM device is performed in the cardiac cath lab at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay and the majority of patients are discharged the same day or the day after. The hospital is the only one in the Bay County area that performs the procedure.

With AFib, which is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm disorder, the heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly, affecting heart flow to the heart and the rest of the body. When blood flow is sluggish, it can cause blood clots to form in some patients. This creates an increased risk that a clot will block blood flow to the brain, causing a potentially disabling or deadly stroke.

During the procedure, a catheter is inserted through the groin and is used to place the device in the upper left chamber of the heart where clots mostly commonly develop. The device has a metal frame that is shaped like a parachute. It acts as a filter to prevent blood clots from leaving the heart and entering the bloodstream. The WATCHMAN TM  device is the only FDA-approved device for lowering the risk of stroke in patients with AFib.

Welcome Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Ajay Mhatre

Ajay Mhatre, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.S.C.A.I.

Cardiovascular Institute is pleased to welcome Dr. Ajay Mhatre to our practice. Dr. Mhatre is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Interventional Cardiology, Cardiovascular Diseases and Internal Medicine.
He holds additional certifications in Vascular and Endovascular Medicine and is a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from the University of Florida and his medical degree at Florida State University. He completed residency and his Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship at University of Florida and continued his training in Interventional Cardiology at the University of Arkansas. He completed an Advanced Coronary & Endovascular Intervention Fellowship at Phoenix Heart Center in Arizona.


Dr. Mhatre is seeing patients with general cardiology needs as well as providing interventional care for those with coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease. He also specializes in limb salvage and has expertise with lower extremity wound care. He has privileges at both Bay Medical Sacred Heart and Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Mhatre has been practicing in the Phoenix area, but is originally from Lake City, Florida. He and his wife are already very familiar with Panama City and are happy to be back in Florida and closer to family. In his spare time, he enjoys exercising, fishing, college football and spending time with his wife and three children.

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Posted by Christa Davis

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

October is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Awareness Month. Electrophysiologist Dr. Saeed Khaja of Cardiovascular Institute explains what you need to know about SCA, how doctors determine your risk, and how it can be prevented.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest and can it be prevented?

How to Diagnose an Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Dr. Nghia Hoang of the Cardiovascular Institute of Northwest Florida reviews the latest technology available to record cardiac arrhythmias for diagnosis from the latest holter monitor, to tiny implanted devices that can last for years, to smart watch technology. He includes the most common signs and symptoms of an abnormal heart rhythm, such as palpitations and fainting.

Welcome Electrophysiologist Dr. Khaja

Saeed Khaja, D.O., M.B.A., F.A.C.C.

Cardiovascular Institute is pleased to welcome Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Saeed Khaja to Panama City. Dr. Khaja has recently completed his fellowship training in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. He attended medical school at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine followed by residency and cardiovascular fellowship training at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. Aside from cardiology, he also has critical care experience working at some of the busiest intensive care units in the City of Chicago.


Dr. Khaja also has other professional experiences outside of medicine which include an MBA from Roosevelt University and being a Firefighter and Paramedic. Dr. Khaja is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in Internal Medicine and Cardiology. Dr. Khaja is seeing patients with general cardiology needs in addition to providing management and treatment of complex cardiac arrhythmias. He is looking forward to bringing to our community the newest treatments and cutting-edge therapies in the field of cardiac electrophysiology.

Dr. Khaja, his wife and two young sons fell in love with the Panama City area at first sight and are excited to call this city their new home. We are very pleased to have Dr. Khaja on our team.

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Posted by Christa Davis

Cardiovascular Institute Donates Ultrasound Machines to Gulf Coast State College

Gulf Coast State College received a donation of two ultrasound machines from the Cardiovascular Institute of Northwest Florida to be used for their Sonography Program. The addition of these two ultrasound machines will provide our students with an expanded learning opportunity to perform echocardiography. The College is grateful for our community partners that provide donations in support of our programs to enhance student learning.

“Dr. Amir Haghighat, CEO of Cardiovascular Institute of NWFL, has generously donated two Acuson Sequoia C512 Ultrasound Machines. This addition will enable the students to perform Echo, Vascular, and Abdominal studies, allowing students more hands-on experience. The Sonography Program of Gulf Coast State College is deeply grateful for their support and generosity” stated Vicki Bynum, GCSC Assistant Coordinator, Sonography Program.  

“Sonography is an essential diagnostic tool in our cardiovascular practice” said Dr. Haghighat, “and more than half of our talented team has graduated from Gulf Coast’s program.  As we upgraded our equipment at Cardiovascular Institute, the opportunity to provide these machines to a program that has provided the community such highly skilled sonographers is truly a win-win.”

Advanced Nuclear Stress Testing

Cardiovascular Institute has invested in new camera technology that makes nuclear stress testing to identify potential coronary heart blockages much more comfortable and quicker for patients.  The new nuclear camera is the only one of its kind in the area and images can be obtained in less than half the time of more conventional cameras. The new camera is affixed to a chair allowing patients to sit-up or recline during their test, whichever is more comfortable, and is more accommodating for larger patients. In addition, patients are exposed to significantly less radiation.  The diagnostic images produced by the new camera technology are much more clear and have significantly reduced the number of false positives which result in patients requiring additional procedures such as a cardiac catheterization in order to identify the potential heart problem.  If your doctor has ordered a nuclear stress test for you, cardiologist Dr. Michael Morrow explains in this video what to expect and the advantages this new technology offers for cardiology patients over what is available elsewhere in the Panama City, Florida area.

Important COVID-19 Notice Before Your Next Appointment

Preventing the spread of Coronavirus has required many changes for local businesses and Cardiovascular Institute is no exception. Our goal is to continue to see our patients as scheduled, however we have a few new protocols we must follow to keep our patients and staff as healthy as possible.

First, if you are sick or have been exposed to a person with flu like symptoms within the last two weeks, please stay home and reschedule your visit.  If you have have traveled from areas that are experiencing an outbreak within the last two weeks, please reschedule your visit and self quarantine per CDC guidelines. If you have a smart phone or a computer with a web cam and microphone, you may be eligible to simply change your appointment to a video visit.  Ask our receptionist about TeleVisits.

When visiting our office for an appointment or test, masks are required to protect the health of our patients and staff. Please practice social distancing from other patients and ask any guests that are with you to wait in the car so there is plenty of room for other patients. We will be screening patients at the door and taking temperatures. We will not be able to allow guests in the exam room with you except for truly exceptional circumstances.  Don’t forget to cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, upper arm or a tissue.  Avoid touching your face if possible and wash your hands with soap often.

Our staff will frequently sanitize office surfaces and work diligently to maintain a clean, healthy space for your cardiovascular care. Please help us help you by respecting the current CDC guidelines to prevent spreading contagious illness.

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Posted by Christa Davis