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Cardiac Surgery Research

Cardiovascular disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. About 85.6 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after effects of stroke.

Heart failure represents a common and deadly common complication of heart disease. Once patients are diagnosed with heart failure, only 50 percent of them live beyond five years.

Translational research

Bypass surgery to treat obstructed coronary arteries has been the most effective treatment for patients with advanced ischemic heart disease. This surgery has been demonstrated to extend life, improve chest pain and enhance quality of life for millions of patients around the world. However, vein grafts bypass are affected conditions that lead to graft occlusion and the loss of the benefits of surgery.

Research at Rush University Medical Center is aimed at further understanding the mechanisms of vein graft failure as well as interventions to reverse it. Most of these mechanisms are related to the inner layer of the vein wall (endothelial cells). Improving the viability of endothelial cells in vein graft is likely to enhance the patency of vein grafts.

Clinical research

Rush faculty are involved in a number of clinical research trials related to cardiovascular diseases.

Ischemic heart disease: Transmyocardial laser revascularization

Some patients with advanced ischemic heart disease are not candidates for the traditional procedures to enhance blood flow to the heart muscle (bypass surgery or stents). Transmyocardial laser revascularization is a surgical procedure by which channels are created in the heart muscle using a specialized laser. Indirectly, these channels bring additional blood supply to the heart muscle.

Rush surgeons were involved in the pioneer clinical studies that demonstrated the safety and efficacy of this novel operation. Ongoing efforts at Rush University Medical Center aim to determine the long-term benefits of this procedure.

Ischemic heart disease: Intraoperative bypass grafts evaluation

The quality of bypass grafts are paramount for the short- and long-term results of patients undergoing bypass surgery. At Rush University Medical Center, specialized equipment is routinely used to intra-operatively assess the quality of bypass grafts. We aim to understand the impact of this intraoperative evaluation in relation to long-term survival, heart attacks and the need of additional procedures.

Valvular heart disease: Transcatheter aortic valve replacement

Rush cardiac surgeons, in collaboration with Rush cardiologists, are involved in clinical research assessing the safety and efficacy of TAVR. Many patients who are not candidates for conventional surgical valve replacement can now receive the benefits of life-saving transcatheter valve replacement. This clinical research also underscores the collaborative philosophy between Rush cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, also called the “Heart Team.”

Heart failure: Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Rush University Medical Center has one of the most active ECMO programs in the region. ECMO is a complex external heart-lung machine capable of providing cardiac and pulmonary support to patients with heart and lung failure. Research efforts aimed at determining the optimal management strategies for these very sick patients are ongoing.