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2019: Smidt Heart Institute Achieves Highest Rating for Mitral Valve Surgery

Smidt Heart Institute Ends the Decade with Three-Star Rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for Mitral Valve Surgery Results; Institute Continues to Break New Ground in Cardiac Patient Care, Research and Education

2019 was a year of innovations for the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, capped off with the news that the institute's newly-formed Department of Cardiac Surgery earned a distinguished three-star rating from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. 

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons awarded its top three-star designation in recognition of the outstanding quality of patient care and outcomes in isolated mitral valve replacement and repair (MVRR) surgeries at Cedars-Sinai in 2018-2019. The mitral valve program is one of a handful in the United States with a near 100% repair rate for degenerative mitral disease. 

"We have one of the best mitral valve surgical programs in the nation, with superior outcomes for our patients," said Joanna Chikwe, MD, chair of the institute's new Department of Cardiac Surgery. "Alfredo Trento, MD, successfully led the development of advanced robotic mitral surgery expertise, and the team has performed over 1,000 robotic cardiac surgeries."

The STS star rating system is one of the most sophisticated and highly regarded overall measures of quality in health care, rating the benchmarked outcomes of cardiothoracic surgery programs in the United States and Canada.

2019 was a banner year for other departments in the Smidt Heart Institute as well, said Executive Director Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, noting that U.S. News & World Report ranked Cedars-Sinai's heart care as No. 3 in the nation—the highest-ranked cardiac care in the western U.S. 

"It’s our people—the pioneers in the field—who come to work every day to transform patients' lives and advance scientific breakthroughs," Marbán said. "And it’s also the result of our incredible patients who trust our experts with their lives.”

Other highlights from the year include:

  • New Leadership: In the fall, Cedars-Sinai announced the appointments of new leaders to head two newly established departments within the Smidt Heart Institute. Heart surgeon Chikwe was named founding chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery, and Christine Albert, MD, MPH, was named founding chair of the Department of Cardiology.
  • Vaping Research: Research presented at the annual American Heart Association Scientific Sessions suggested that electronic nicotine delivery systems, including devices such as e-cigarettes, may be even more harmful to the heart than tobacco cigarettes. The study’s senior author, Florian Rader, MD, MSc, says it’s the unknown bucket of chemicals that vaping device manufacturers use to form vapors that is likely causing the most harm.
  • Aneurysm Expertise: Two patients shared their harrowing journeys of being diagnosed with aneurysms. James Inman, 59, brushed off his chest pain until it became unbearable. He was airlifted from a community hospital to Cedars-Sinai, where a team of experts including Ali Azizzadeh, MD, saved his life. For patient Roxanne Hanks, 61, her subtle yet persistent symptoms were brushed off by other doctors. But, when she met with Azizzadeh, she was quickly diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and underwent a lifesaving minimally invasive procedure.
Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, director, Smidt Heart Institute
It’s our people—the pioneers in the field—who come to work every day to transform patients' lives and advance scientific breakthroughs. And it’s also the result of our incredible patients who trust our experts with their lives.
Eduardo Marbán, MD, PhD, director, Smidt Heart Institute
  • Barbershop Study Named Top U.S. Clinical Research Achievement: The Clinical Research Forum recognized the Smidt Heart Institute with its most prestigious award, The Herbert Pardes Clinical Research Excellence Award, for its study aimed at developing a blood pressure control program for African American men in the comfortable and convenient environments of their barbershops. In just six short months, the study—first published in the New England Journal of Medicine and led by the late hypertension expert Ronald G. Victor, MD—improved the outcomes and control of high blood pressure in more than 60% of participants. The 12-month data published recently in the peer-reviewed journal Circulation backed up the results, proving that a pharmacist-led, barbershop-based medical intervention can successfully lower blood pressure in African American men who face a higher risk of disability and premature death due to uncontrolled high blood pressure.
  • New Option for Heart Valve Patients: Research led by Raj Makkar, MD, and published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, showed for the first time that patients with a common heart defect who undergo catheter-based valve replacement procedures have the same survival and complication rates as patients without the defect who undergo the same procedure. Shortly after Makkar’s study was published, the Food and Drug Administration approved a minimally invasive heart valve procedure for an expanded group of patients with aortic stenosis.
  • Pioneering Procedure for Cardiac Birth Defect: Maxwell and Mason Bradford were born at 27 weeks gestation, each weighing just 2 pounds, 10 ounces. Like many extremely premature babies, both babies were born with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), the most common heart-related birth defect, which is commonly called “a hole in the heart.” At two weeks old, they underwent a minimally invasive procedure developed by Evan Zahn, MD, director of the Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program. Shortly after the twins were treated, the Food and Drug Administration approved the transcatheter procedure for wider use.
  • Advances in Women’s Heart Disease: Noel Bairey Merz, MD, teamed up with actress, singer and activist Barbra Streisand to warn women and their physicians about the different heart disease symptoms that are more common to women than men. The duo shared their perspectives with the Journal of the American Medical Association podcast, JAMA Author Interviews. The podcast resulted from a review article authored by Bairey Merz and published in the same journal. The article outlined how physicians should evaluate female patients who have chest pain. Bairey Merz is director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center.