Cardiothoracic Surgery Program Experiences Revitalization

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CTS TeamThe Cardiothoracic Surgery (CTS) program at St. Joseph's Healthcare System has experienced a revitalization period and is seeing the fruit of its labor. The CTS team, now composed of adult surgeons Mark Connolly, MD, Chairman of Surgery, SJRMC; Kouroush Asgarian, DO, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, SJRMC; Alexander Wohler, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, SJRMC; and pediatric cardiac surgeon Khanh Nguyen, MD, has significantly improved the program by bringing together their expertise in advanced and cutting-edge surgical techniques to treat a variety of illnesses.

When medication and catheter-based treatments cannot relieve symptoms, surgery remains the accepted method for a range of cardiothoracic conditions, including but not limited to mitral valve prolapse, atrial septal defect, and coronary artery disease.

Less invasive options are becoming increasingly available and are popular among patients needing to undergo surgery.


According to Dr. Asgarian, St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center offers a variety of Minimally-Invasive Valvular Heart Surgeries, such as, Minimally-Invasive Aortic Valve Replacement and Minimally-Invasive Mitrial Valve Repair. "These surgeries only require about a 3-inch incision between the ribs," explains Dr. Asgarian. "These minimally-invasive procedures allow our patients to function normally more quickly, by drastically reducing their recovery period from a normal 6 weeks to approximately 2 weeks."


St. Joseph's has made significant advances in robotic surgery utilizing the da Vinci® Surgical System. Among the trendsetting cardiac procedures performed is robot-assisted coronary bypass surgery. Patients benefit from a reduced hospital stay, minimal pain and scarring, less blood loss and reduced need for blood transfusions, and as with other minimally-invasive procedures, patients enjoy a faster recovery and a quicker return to normal activities. Additionally, the non-risk adjusted 30-day in hospital mortality rate CABG for 2012 was .8%, showing that robot-assisted bypass surgeries provide a reduced risk of infection and stroke to patients.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, atrial fibrillation (AFib), is the most common type of arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). When atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias occur, the electrical activity of the heart is disorganized, causing an irregular heartbeat. The irregular heartbeat disrupts the flow of blood through the heart.


Cardiothoracic surgeons at St. Joseph's are utilizing several MAZE procedures, among the services of the St. Joseph's Atrial Fibrillation Center, or AFib Center, including the Thorascopic MAZE procedure, a cutting-edge minimally-invasive approach, to treat and cure AFib.


"MAZE procedures are highly effective, with up to 90% success rate in appropriately selected patients," says Dr. Wohler. "After undergoing a MAZE procedure, many patients are cured from atrial fibrillation and may even become free from having to take medication for the condition, including blood thinners," he adds.


And it doesn't end there. The CTS team has formed a Thoracic Aneurysm Center, which cares for patients from diagnoses to post-surgery. Patients with thoracic aneurysms are carefully followed through the Center and monitored for changes in their condition. Also in development is the Percutaneous Heart Valve Program (TAVR – Aortic Valve Program), which will serve to help monitor those patients who are either high-risk for surgery or non-surgical candidates. Future plans also include a full-service office at St. Joseph's Wayne Hospital (in the space formerly occupied by the Women's Heart Center).


"Surgical volume at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center grew by 50% in 2012 (as compared to 2011). We attribute this growth, not only to the Cardiothoracic Surgery team, but also to the effective continuum of care and multidisciplinary team approach here at St. Joseph's," says Dr. Connolly. "Our goal is to continue growing into a regional Center of Excellence – both surgically and educationally – teaching and training future surgeons to perform the latest procedures, as well as use the newest technology for greater results," he adds.


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