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Straight Talk
A weekly update from management on the issues that matter most.

Jan 11, 2018
Cardiac care has been the heart of NCH (pun intended) for decades. Starting with a generous gift from Helen and Fred Schick in 1996, the largest gift up to that time for NCH, the Schick Heart Center’s team has successfully cared for hundreds of thousands of patients, has performed over 9,000 open heart surgeries, and for years has had the highest quality rating based on objective metrics from the Society of Thoracic Surgery.

Seven years ago the NCH Heart Institute combined many of the independent cardiologists into one functioning group that has since grown by recruiting cardiologists from around the nation with additional talents.   

New professionals—with added abilities coming to NCH—change lives.  We now have a structural heart program currently performing two major procedures, trans-catheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and WATCHMAN, with more to come.  Both complex techniques require teams to function together, prepare extensively, select patients appropriately, communicate flawlessly, and execute meticulously.  Like many successes, teamwork matters.  Everyone needs to know his/her part in the procedure to perform flawlessly. 

We can repair aortic valves without splitting the chest wide open, thus providing a safer and better experience for patients.  Drs. Adam Frank, Larry Leslie, Jessie Noboa, Tracey Roth, Brian Solomon, Nurse Practitioner Vanessa Russino, and Director of the Cath Lab Steve Cooke are at the center of a squad of more than fifteen who now perform TAVR surgery.  Anesthesiologists, radiologists, interventional cardiologists, and non-interventional cardiologists as well as standby open-heart surgical and cardiac bypass teams are all prepared to provide support. 


In the past, many patients who had a narrowing of the lumen of their aortic valve (the main outlet of the heart) were too old or frail to undergo open heart surgery, which required splitting the sternum, stopping the heart, using the heart-lung pump, and enduring a long recovery.  Now, elderly geriatric patients can have the same benefit of a replaced aortic valve by just inserting a catheter from their groin into the heart, placing a new valve inside the old diseased valve, and typically going home in two days with a couple of band aids.


One of our recent 80+ year-olds played winning tennis a week later.  This patient did exceed “doctor’s orders,” but felt so well he couldn’t control himself.  


The WATCHMAN device is a second recent addition with similar safer characteristics for patients.  Atrial fibrillation is found in 5% of people over 65 and 10% of people over 80.  Anti-coagulation (blood thinning) has been therapy in the past to prevent strokes caused by clots that form in one appendage within the heart.  Now, the space where clots had originated can be filled with a device called WATCHMAN.  The insertion, again performed without splitting the chest open, requires a team of at least eight clinicians including cardiologists Drs. Hillary Tassin, Shona Velamakanni, David Axline, Adam Frank, and Dinesh Sharma, who all interact seamlessly for success.


The sign of an expert is making the difficult look easy.  These expert cardiac teams are helping everyone live a longer, happier, and healthier life.

Allen Weiss, MD

President and CEO

You may contact Dr. Allen Weiss and The NCH Healthcare System by clicking here.