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Expansive Expertise and Gifts for Heart Research Result in Lives Saved

November 22, 2010

“The strength of our program stems from the breadth of our clinical programs, as well as the expertise of Washington University physicians providing this care,” says Douglas Mann, MD, chief of the cardiovascular division at Barnes-Jewish. “One of the things that sets us apart is our ability to complement strong patient care with exceptional laboratory research. As we actively translate new findings into care for our patients, we improve outcomes and the way in which each of us practices medicine.”

When an Expert Team Decides, “You’re going to live.”

Michael Fields* was having a regular day when he was struck by excruciating pain. He did not know that he was experiencing an aortic dissection, a tear in the inner layer of the heart’s main artery. His condition could have been fatal, and Michael needed to be treated very quickly. Thankfully, Barnes-Jewish Hospital offers round-the-clock coverage by vascular and cardiac surgeons who are leaders in some of the most cutting-edge treatment options.

Washington University endovascular surgeons Patrick Geraghty, MD and Luis Sanchez, MD, in conjunction with the cardiac surgeon on call, decided against traditional open-heart surgery, as it posed more potential risks. They opted for a nontraditional stent graft for Michael.

“It was not a standard procedure, but we felt it was necessary and could be successful because of our experience in adapting technology to best help our patients. We have great collaboration between cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons,” Drs. Geraghty and Sanchez agree.

“If I hadn’t had the Barnes-Jewish doctors or the experimental treatment they could offer…and without the gifts of support to Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation that help to make those treatments possible, I might not be here today,” says Michael. “I was on the borderline between life and death. To me, the doctors and the donors were all saying, ‘We’re choosing life for you. You’re going to live.’”

Life after a Near-Death Experience

Four years after his surgery, Michael continues to follow up with Alan Braverman, MD, a Washington University cardiologist who is an expert in the evaluation and management of patients with aortic disease, such as aortic dissection, and such genetically triggered aortic syndromes as Marfan syndrome. Dr. Braverman is also an investigator in the International Registry of Aortic Dissection (IRAD).

Through IRAD, physicians from around the world study and research clinical features and outcomes of patients with acute aortic dissection in order to determine best practices for diagnosis and treatment of this potentially lethal condition.

Michael also sees Angela Brown, MD, a Washington University certified clinical hypertension (high blood pressure) specialist and medical director of the Hypertension Clinic at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Dr. Brown helps Michael control his high blood pressure, which is crucial to prevent the artery from re-rupturing.

When asked what it has been like to be part of the diverse team treating Michael, Dr. Brown says, “When Michael came to the emergency room, our team immediately recognized what was happening and activated the surgical team. Moving quickly was key to saving his life. Our greatest strength is the team of people we have. Each has a role and we work together. What’s unique is the expertise in surgery and post-op follow-up we offer in hypertension management and aortic dissection. It’s rare to find all this expertise in one place.”

Michael continues to be grateful for the diverse team of doctors that care for him today.

“I credit my doctors, wife and prayers for saving my life,” Michael says. “It’s something of a miracle that I’m walking around.”

(*Not his real name. Patient chose to be anonymous.)

Gifts to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation's Marfan Syndrome Clinic Fund (#6022) support Dr. Braverman's important projects in the Marfan Syndrome Clinic at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. This year, Dr. Braverman was part of a group of international experts who published new criteria to simplify the diagnosis of Marfan syndrome, a potentially fatal genetic disorder associated with aortic aneurysm and dissection, and to provide a differential diagnosis for related conditions.

“I am very grateful to donors to the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation for their support,” says Dr. Braverman, who directs the clinic. “Gifts enable us to do research and educate physicians and patients about Marfan. Their support has also helped us bring more families and patients in to get screened and evaluated for a genetic predisposition to thoracic aortic disease and the risks of aortic dissections.”



Dr. Mann shares 10 health tips for preventing heart disease, see them online at www.GivingBarnesJewish.org/Mann

Heart Chart Toppers

  • Ranked 12th for Heart and Heart Surgery out of 4,852 hospitals nationwide.
  • Currently the only hospital in the St. Louis region performing heart transplants .
  • One of only 24 teams in the country to participate in the PARTNER trial for heart valve replacement without open-heart surgery.
  • Based on research at Barnes-Jewish, Washington University cardiologists proposed the now-common practice of taking aspirin to help prevent heart attacks.
  • Performs 900 surgeries on valves and coronary arteries annually, the highest volume of any in the nation.
  • In 2010, Barnes-Jewish received the American Heart Association’s Get with the Guidelines Gold Performance Award for using the latest research to provide the best possible care to coronary artery disease, stroke and heart failure patients.

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