News Release: Emory Healthcare , School of Medicine

Feb. 5,  2010

American Heart Month: Achievements Celebrated at Emory Heart & Vascular Center

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Emory Heart & Vascular Center, ranked as a top center in U.S. News & World Report's annual survey of the nation's best cardiology centers, claims a series of significant "firsts" including the first cardiac catheterization lab in Georgia, the nation's first coronary stent, the world's first minimally invasive triple off-pump bypass surgery and Georgia's first implantable defibrillator.

"Our experience, history and teamwork enable us to provide the best care to our patients," says Emory Heart & Vascular Center Director Douglas Morris, MD. "In fact, physicians all over the country routinely refer patients here for the multitude of resources, innovative options and procedures we can offer even the most complex heart and vascular cases."

Recent strides include:

Bone Marrow Cells for Peripheral Artery Disease

Cardiologist Arshed A. Quyyumi, MD, professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, continues to explore whether a patient's own bone marrow cells can be used to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD). Bone marrow contains cells that can regenerate all the kinds of cells that form the blood - and possibly, cells that can replenish the linings of blood vessels, too.

Quyyumi has been a pioneer in testing whether a patient's bone marrow cells can help repair the heart after a heart attack. With his current study on PAD, patients are injected with a growth factor (GM-CSF) already used to restore white blood cell numbers in cancer patients. Quyyumi and his team are trying to determine if the growth factor might be able to nudge progenitor cells out of the bone marrow and into the circulation, where they can repair damaged blood vessels. This idea is being tested in a Phase II clinical study at Emory sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Quyyumi received a "Grand Opportunities" grant from the NHLBI to support this work.

Depression and Heart Disease

Investigators at Emory are continuing research related to the link between depression and heart disease as a result of a two-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Lead investigator, Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, professor of cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine, is looking at the relationship between depression and heart disease, specifically researching the potential mechanisms. She is studying twin males born between 1946 and 1956 from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry comparing one twin who has depression and one who does not. This grant builds on a previous project looking at the same population of twins and allows researchers to bring these twins back and compare two time points.

Non-Surgical Treatment for Severe Aortic Stenosis

Emory cardiologists are awaiting FDA approval of a promising new non-surgical treatment option for patients with severe aortic stenosis. The life threatening heart condition affects tens of thousands of Americans each year when the aortic valve tightens or narrows, preventing blood from flowing through normally. Emory researchers, led by Peter Block, MD, professor of medicine, Emory School of Medicine, are performing percutaneous aortic valve replacement as part of a Phase II clinical trial, comparing this procedure with traditional, open-heart surgery or medical therapy in high-risk patients with aortic stenosis. It provides a new way for doctors to treat patients who are too ill or frail to endure the traditional surgical approach. During the procedure, doctors create a small incision in the groin or chest wall and then feed the new valve, mounted on a wire mesh on a catheter, and place it where the new valve is needed. Emory University Hospital is one of approximately 20 hospitals nationwide, and the only site in Georgia, to study this new technology. Approximately 75 patients have received new valves at Emory since the clinical trial started in October 2007. Researchers hope to receive FDA approval in late 2011.


Emory Heart & Vascular Center physicians are now using cutting edge telehealth technology to offer cardiac consults from a distance to patients living in rural areas of Georgia. Web-based computer cameras transmit live video and medical information from a remote doctor's office to specialists at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center, offering convenient and quick access to heart care to patients throughout the state of Georgia. The new telehealth service also connects referring physicians with Emory experts to help improve patient care and allows patients to participate in clinical trials that are unavailable to them in many rural areas. More than 20 cardiac and vascular specialists and cardiothoracic surgeons are providing care to patients using this new technology.

Off-pump Coronary Bypass Surgery

There is an ongoing debate among cardiac surgeons as to whether or not off-pump coronary bypass surgery, performed on a beating heart without a heart-lung machine, is appropriate compared to conventional on-pump bypass surgery. Research led by John Puskas, MD, professor of surgery and associate chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, has shown that off-pump bypass surgery reduces the risk of complications for high-risk patients, such as those that are especially frail or those with diabetes, obesity, kidney disease or a history of stroke. This conclusion comes from a ten-year history of coronary bypass patients at Emory recently published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.

Puskas also recently presented long-term follow-up data from the first randomized US trial to compare off-pump with conventional on-pump surgery. The results from the landmark SMART (Surgical Management of Arterial Revascularization) study, which started in 2000, show that participants who had the off-pump procedure lost less blood, had less damage to their hearts during surgery and recovered more quickly than those who underwent on-pump surgery. Beating-heart patients in the study also were able to breathe on their own sooner after surgery, spent less time in intensive care and left the hospital one day sooner, on average, than conventional coronary bypass patients.

Heartmate II Ventricular Assist Device

The FDA recently approved the HeartMate II Ventricular Assist Device, which surgeons in the Emory Transplant Center have been implanting in heart failure patients as part of a national clinical trial since 2007. The implantable device is designed to provide long-term support as a form of destination therapy - in place of a donor transplant - for individuals who are not eligible for, or unwilling to undergo, a heart transplant.

Emory University Hospital's Cardiac Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) destination therapy program recently earned the "Gold Seal of Approval" from The Joint Commission, which accredits health care organizations and programs in the United States. Emory's VAD program is the only certified program of its kind in Georgia and one of 80 centers in the United States. While the recognition is an honor for the VAD program, the certification also means that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will now provide reimbursement for the care of these patients at Emory who require destination therapy. Also, this year marks 25 years of saving lives for Emory's Heart Transplant program. It started at Emory University Hospital in1985 when surgeons performed the first heart transplant in Georgia.

Today, the patient survival rates are among the best in the country. On Sunday, Feb. 14, the Emory Transplant Center will celebrate this milestone by hosting more than 200 heart transplant patients and their families for a transplant reunion event.

Chest Pain Center Accreditation

Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown recently earned the highest designation from the Chest Pain Center Accreditation by the Society of Chest Pain Centers. Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown are the only accredited chest pain centers in metropolitan Atlanta to be accredited with PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention), which indicates a higher level of emergency cardiac care services. Most commonly known as coronary angioplasty, PCI is a therapeutic procedure to treat the narrowed coronary arteries of the heart found in coronary heart disease. The designation is a distinguishing attribute since PCI is now the preferred treatment for heart attack patients. 

Originally posted on Feb. 1, 2010


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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