HACKENSACK MERIDIAN HEALTH’S STRUCTURAL HEART PROGRAM IS DEDICATED TO BRINGING INNOVATIVE, LIFE SAVING TECHNIQUES TO NEW JERSEY RESIDENTS

BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN • PHOTOS © AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY

Over the past 10 years, thanks to significant breakthroughs in the treatment of structural heart conditions and congenital heart disease, minimally invasive options that effectively repair or replace heart valves have considerably decreased the need for open heart surgery. A life changing advancement for many individuals who were once considered inoperable, small incision interventional procedures have been a game changer for patients and physicians alike. That’s why Hackensack Meridian Health is dedicated to bringing these innovative techniques to New Jersey residents.

“Many years ago, people were treated with medicine for blocked arteries and other heart ailments because that was all the medical field had to offer,” noted Richard Neibart, M.D., chief of cardiac surgery for Hackensack Meridian Health’s southern market. “By the late 1960s and early ’70s, bypass surgeries were performed for coronary artery disease. In the 1980s, angioplasty came into play and further evolved into using drug coated stents as a method to treat blocked arteries in the heart. And in the most recent decade, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) a procedure which guides a tiny medical device through a catheter was developed to effectively replace a damaged heart valve.”

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“Before TAVR, open heart surgery was the only treatment for aortic stenosis a condition that causes the aortic valve to stiffen and not open completely,” Dr. Neibart said. “While it provided excellent long term results, it was a big operation and performing it on an older patient with a weakened heart or conditions such as diabetes or lung disease was risky. That’s why TAVR is so groundbreaking; it offers these patients an alternative.”

“We were one of the first hospitals to offer TAVR in New Jersey and have been recognized nationally for our high TAVR volumes,” Dr. Neibart noted. “Jersey Shore University Medical Center has a comprehensive cardiovascular program offering everything from diagnostic and rehab services to the most complex open heart surgeries. This is an important aspect that patients need to consider when choosing where to go for cardiac care. If a heart condition becomes life threatening, it’s vital to have access to the highest level of expertise, and not all hospitals can deliver that.”

A leader in cardiac surgeries, Jersey Shore University Medical Center has recently been ranked as high performing in “Heart Bypass, Aortic Valve Surgery, and Heart Failure” by U.S. News & World Report. This academic medical center also recently launched the Advanced Heart Failure Program—one of only a handful in the state and has been recognized as a leader in minimally invasive cardiovascular procedures, including cardiac robotic surgery. In fact, Jersey Shore University Medical Center performs a higher volume of heart surgeries than most hospitals located in New York and Philadelphia.

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Staggering statistics prove the program’s importance: According to the American Heart Association, approximately one in three American adults suffer from cardiovascular disease, and it is the number one cause of death in the United States. It is predicted that by 2030, due to an aging population and the average life expectancy increasing, 40.5 percent of the U.S. population will have some form of cardiovascular disease. In addition, high blood pressure is on the rise and more than five million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease each year. Many of these patients go untreated or undertreated due to lack of available care.

“But new procedures and less invasive treatments are changing that,” Dr. Neibart said. “Probably 50 to 65 percent of aortic value procedures nationwide are being done with TAVR as opposed to open heart surgery. Similar procedures and products have been developed to treat other types of cardiovascular conditions as well.” Like the Watchman™ Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device, a first of its kind proven alternative to warfarin therapy that reduces the risk of stroke.

“There is a condition known as atrial fibrillation which can cause clots to form in the heart,” Dr. Neibart said. “They are commonly treated with medication, but the Watchman procedure involves the insertion of a small implant that reduces the formation of those clots and prevents the long term risk of stroke.”

Surgeons at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Structural Heart Program also perform MitraClip® Mitral Valve Repair, an emerging option for treating mitral valve regurgitation.

“Usage of the MitraClip is beginning to gain popularity,” Dr. Neibart said. “It’s another catheter based procedure for people who have severely leaking mitral valves and are not candidates for open heart surgery.”

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It’s just one of the emerging minimally invasive techniques currently dominating the field of cardiovascular surgery; innovative procedures favored for their ability to offer patients less pain, a shorter hospital stay, and a quicker recovery.

“These are all really exciting innovations,” Dr. Neibart said. “One question I like to ask my patients is ‘How’s your 401(k) doing?’ Because, with procedures like these, they can live to be 100. The ability to perform these surgeries in a less invasive way has added years to the lives of so many and provided tremendous benefits.”

Hackensack Meridian Health continues investing to remain at the forefront of cardiovascular innovation, building state of the art hybrid operating rooms (ORs) that allow surgeons to perform surgical and catheterization procedures simultaneously. The hybrid ORs will combine a conventional operating room setting with high tech imaging, so surgeons, interventionists, and imaging experts can work together in the same room to improve care and outcomes.

“Being a part of the Hackensack Meridian Health network offers tremendous benefits to the community,” Dr. Neibart concluded. “Our patients have access to all kinds of services and, because we are part of such a large network, are able to participate in groundbreaking clinical trials and are granted access to innovative devices as they are rolled out. The strides we’ve already taken with our Structural Heart Program are impressive, but the future of this field is constantly evolving, so we are always researching and never settling for the status quo.”

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Hackensack Meridian Health
844.464.9355 / hackensackmeridianhealth.org