Scripps Health helps get patients back in the game
Posted on Jan. 1, 2017
When baseball legend Rod Carew suffered a massive heart attack in late 2015, the last thing he wanted was to be benched for the rest of his life. Carew, an All-Star and Hall of Famer whose Major League Baseball career spanned nearly two decades, had a failing heart and was fighting hard just to survive, much less thrive. Then he met the winning team at Scripps Health.
Carew, an Orange County resident, was transferred to Scripps by emergency transport about three weeks after his heart attack, a cardiac event so catastrophic that it’s often referred to as a widow-maker. Barely a septuagenarian, Carew had advanced heart failure. He could hardly breathe and his lungs and feet had filled with fluid as his heart struggled to pump blood and deliver oxygen throughout his body. His doctor sent him to the Scripps Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory Support team.
A balloon pump gave Carew a temporary reprieve, helping his heart to function, but it was a short-term solution to a permanent problem. Then he was moved to Scripps’ cutting-edge Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, where some of the country’s top experts gave him a new lease on life.
“If a patient’s heart function is significantly decreased a month after a major heart attack, it is less likely to regain enough heart function to recover,” says Dr. Ajay Srivastava, a cardiologist and heart failure specialist at Scripps. “It was obvious [Carew] would need something more.”
With Carew’s severely decreased heart function, medication and other first-stop therapies weren’t going to help. The Scripps team discussed their patient’s limited options and possible outcomes with his wife and children. At the time, Carew wasn’t a candidate for a heart transplant — he was a smoker and would have to wait at least six months to even be considered. His best bet, they decided, was a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD.
The portable LVAD implant, inserted during open-heart surgery, pumps oxygen-rich blood from the heart’s left ventricle to the aorta, from which it is circulated throughout the body. A thin cord runs from the device through a tiny opening in the skin and connects to a small controller with rechargeable batteries.
“Patients immediately notice a difference in terms of their breathing and how they feel overall,” says Srivastava. “After a month or two, their energy levels improve.”The LVAD, which has been around since the early 2000s, is just one of the high-tech solutions offered at the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, which opened in 2015 and served more than 6,200 patients in its first year. The $456 million, 383,000-square-foot facility features 108 private patient rooms, 59 intensive care beds, four cardiovascular operating rooms, two specialized hybrid operating rooms, and three advanced technology catheterization labs.
There is greater than 10-year patient outcomes data for LVAD and Dr. Srivastava states that the device can serve as a permanent solution, particularly for patients who aren’t eligible for a heart transplant due to age or other reasons. “The LVAD keeps them alive and gives them quality of life,” he explains. Srivastava wants to get the word out about the incredible device, which he expects will become increasingly advanced in coming years.
“Awareness about LVADs is still quite low,” he explains. News of well-known recipients like Dick Cheney and Rod Carew help to broaden the public’s awareness of this revolutionary device.
Happy endings also help. Carew, who spent time at Scripps Rehab in Encinitas following his LVAD insertion, quit smoking and devoted himself like a champ to improving his health. The record-setting former star athlete, who played for the California Angels and Minnesota Twins, grew stronger by the day. And just this past December, he received a new heart and kidney during a procedure at a Los Angeles hospital (Scripps doesn’t perform heart transplants). Carew and his wife are already making future plans.
“Patients have options in the current era for heart failure,” says Srivastava. “They don’t have to suffer like a few years back. They can talk to their cardiologists and find out if they’re candidates for these newer treatments.” AnnaMaria Stephens
Carew: Photography courtesy of Scripps Health
San Diego continues to rank as one of the country’s top regions for cutting-edge healthcare. From life-saving technologies to state-of-the-art new facilities, patients have more choices than ever when it comes to managing their health and wellness.
• UC San Diego recently debuted its Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla. The nearly $1 billion, 245-bed hospital represents the region’s only academic health system. It combines physician-researchers, novel treatments, and clinical trials with modern amenities aimed to aid the healing process. The striking ten-story, 509,500-square-foot facility honors Joan and Irwin Jacobs, who contributed $100 million in gifts. It includes three specialty centers: the Rady Pavilion for Women and Infants, the Pauline and Stanley Foster Pavilion for Cancer Care, and the A. Vassiliadis Family Pavilion for Advanced Surgery.
• Scripps Health made headlines when president and CEO Chris Van Gorder landed for the eighth time on Modern Healthcare’s annual ranking of the nation’s 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare. Van Gorder, who is the only person from San Diego County to make the prestigious roster, oversees 15,000 employees at five acute-care hospital campuses and 28 outpatient clinics — all highly ranked facilities. A $2 billion expansion plan has included two new emergency care centers, the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute and the Scripps Radiation Therapy Center.
• The Tri-City Medical Center, now affiliated with UC San Diego, is on the forefront in several new technologies, including intraoperative radiation treatment (IORT). It was the region’s first to offer IORT, a high dose of radiation given during surgery, which can eradicate cancer in minutes instead of multiple treatments. With the help of the Tri-City Foundation, the medical center also acquired a Revolution CT scanner — another first for San Diego. The technology can produce a complete 3-D image of a human heart in the time it takes to pass one heartbeat.
• In December of 2016, two Sharp Healthcare facilities, Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women and Newborns, received “Top Hospital” designation among the best in the nation by Leapfrog, a national nonprofit organization. Out of 25 California hospitals to receive the distinction, only those two were from the San Diego region.
• This spring, Kaiser Permanente is expected to debut San Diego Central Hospital, a new 450-bed hospital in Kearny Mesa. The 565,000-square-foot facility will be the first in California to earn LEED Gold Health Care hospital certification. It will focus on high-tech healthcare, from robotic and image-guided surgical equipment to Kaiser Permanente’s HealthConnect, the world’s largest private electronic health record system.