“When you think about how many patients are being treated with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, it’s been a wonderful new advancement,” Kommineni said.
When calcium deposits build up on the aortic valve, it thickens and narrows, affecting the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. Treatment for advanced cases is valve replacement, but some patients aren’t candidates for that because of other health conditions.
For patients in the south suburbs of Chicago and Northwest Indiana, health care officials at UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial in Harvey are building up the cardiothoracic department so a trip to the University of Chicago for care is unnecessary.
“We’re building a community-based, state-of-the-art program for cardiothoracic surgery, which will be pretty much everything short of a transplant and ventricular devices,” said Dr. Daniel Ciaburri, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Ingalls.
Before the two health care systems merged in 2016, the cardiothoracic program at Ingalls was smaller and limited in scope, Ciaburri said.
“This was a small program helping straight-forward, low-risk patients in the past,” he said. “Now it’s going to be a robust program doing all sorts of complicated surgeries.”
This includes starting a robotic thoracic surgery program, as well as using Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, or ECMO, a machine used in heart surgery that pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body that allows the heart and lungs to rest.
Ingalls officials also are working on bringing the minimally invasive valve replacement to patients within the next year, Ciaburri said.
“We’re very excited,” he said. “We think we can build a program here, and it’s needed here in the south suburbs .”
With an increase in the incidence of heart and vascular disease in the state, such advancements are important, says Connie Adams, clinical quality director with Methodist Hospitals Heart & Vascular Institute.
Also significant, she says, is a focus on wellness and prevention.
“Local residents who are supported by our care are encouraged to take an active role in their own health and wellness,” Adams said. “The focus is on patient engagement through shared decision making.”
This includes using community outreach to promote education and screening programs for local veterans, improving residents’ access to fresh foods, and raising awareness about health disparities and health care advocacy.
“It’s about being a voice for people who feel like they have no voice,” Adams said.