Mount Nittany Physician Group Cardiology offers diagnostic heart care in rural communities

September 28, 2020
5 min read


At Mount Nittany Health, getting the care you need, when you need it, matters. We know from our Community Health Needs Assessment that priorities for our rural communities include better access to chronic disease prevention and management services, including screenings and education for heart disease. One of the ways we are addressing this need is through echocardiogram, or echo, expansion to our outreach locations, led by outpatient echocardiogram director and cardiologist Alex Szymanski, MD.

“Echos are a vital tool used in cardiology to aid in patient care,” shares Dr. Szymanski. “Making this service available in communities beyond the State College office means all of our patients can receive timely diagnostic care that can be lifesaving.”

Echos use high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to produce images of a patient’s heart to view the structure and assess overall function. The test is noninvasive. A certified technician places small electrode patches, applies gel, and then moves a probe across the chest to produce the images, all while the patient is laying down.

The procedure allows providers to see the heart beating and pumping blood and can help determine if heart problems are the cause of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain. It is often used as a primary tool in diagnosing several heart conditions and as a method for evaluating the effectiveness of treatments.

Echos can reveal:

  • Changes in patient heart size or thickening of the heart muscle that could be caused by abnormal heart valves, genetic heart conditions, or high blood pressure.
  • Heart pumping strength by measuring the percent of blood that is pumped with each heartbeat.  A heart that isn’t pumping enough blood to meet the body’s needs can lead to symptoms of heart failure.
  • Weakened heart muscle that could be the result of a heart attack or coronary artery disease.
  • Abnormal heart valves, such as valves that do not open or close properly
  • Congenital heart defects, such as “holes” in the heart, including atrial and ventricle septal defects.

Depending on the findings, patients may need additional procedures, such as cardiac catheterizations or stent placements.

“Bringing this essential, non-invasive service to our patients in their home community truly fulfills our mission to make people healthier,” says Dr. Szymanski. “It provides us with valuable clinical insight for diagnosis and evaluation of treatments to ensure our patients receive the right care for their individual needs.”

Echo services are currently available at Mount Nittany Health—Mifflin County every Tuesday and Mount Nittany Health—Philipsburg every other Thursday.

Mount Nittany Health Foundation donors make a difference. Our donors' generosity enables the growth of expertise, advances in lifesaving technology, program improvements, and facility upgrades that meet the unique needs of the communities we serve. Gifts directly support Mount Nittany Health's mission to make people healthier. To learn more about the Mount Nittany Health Foundation, visit or call 814.234.6777.

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Our donors' generosity enables the growth of expertise, advances in lifesaving technology, program improvements, and facility upgrades that meet the unique needs of the communities we serve.