MD Insider provides a unique inside look into medical conditions and treatments to uncover ground-breaking advances that are truly transforming healthcare. The series features insight from acclaimed cardiologist, Dean Kereiakes, MD, breaking down exciting innovations and treatments available right here in the Tristate. In this episode, Dr. Kereiakes and host Clyde Gray, discuss The Christ Hospital's 50-year history of open heart bypass surgery and other innovations, and introduce J. Michael Smith, MD, a national pioneer in minimally invasive mitral valve surgery and robotics, who has recently joined The Christ Hosital medical staff.
The Christ Hospital is celebrating a half century of innovative heart surgery and medical breakthroughs led by its cardiac surgeons. At the same time, two newly arrived surgeons will be expanding the hospital’s treatment capabilities and research efforts as they join the cardiac team in January.
“We’ve always been at the forefront of cardiac care in Cincinnati,” says Geoff Answini, MD, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at The Christ Hospital. “The first adult cardiac surgery was done at The Christ Hospital in 1969 by Dr. John Flege.”
In addition to Dr. Flege’s pioneering work, Dr. Answini also credits Dr. Charles Abbottsmith, one of the founding members of The Ohio Heart and Vascular Center, with shaping much of the reputation The Christ Hospital enjoys today. The organization began making further strides in 1985, when Dean Kereiakes, MD, began participating in large scale research trials. This led to the foundation of The Christ Hospital Cardiovascular Research Center, now known as The Carl and Edyth Lindner Center for Research and Education at The Christ Hospital.
“The Lindner Research Center has driven a lot of innovation, not only in Cincinnati but nationally as well. We’ve done multiple trials where we treated first in man, and many others that were first in the Country or first in Ohio. It’s kept us on the cutting edge, not just in cardiology research but also cardiac surgery research. We truly have a unique center here where we’re able to offer patients world-class care without having to fly to Chicago, Boston, Cleveland or New York,” Dr. Answini says.
In the last five years, The Christ Hospital has placed a particular emphasis on a multidisciplinary patient care strategy. This approach combines the expertise of multiple specialists, including heart failure doctors, electrophysiologists, interventional and general cardiologists as well as surgeons.
“We really try to emphasize the heart team approach. We meet at least three days a week to discuss patients who are hospitalized or patients who have upcoming procedures in real time so that there’s not a big delay and we get a truly multidisciplinary opinion about what we’re going to do about each particular patient’s care,” Dr. Answini says.
While celebrating past innovations, The Christ Hospital is also looking to the future as it welcomes J. Michael Smith, MD, a national pioneer in minimally-invasive mitral valve surgery and robotics. Dr. Smith will join the team as the newly-created Castellini Family Endowed Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery.
“It’s a big honor for me, knowing Bob and Susie Castellini for all these years and what they mean to the community,” Dr. Smith says. “They were a huge factor in recruiting me back to Cincinnati, and specifically back to Christ Hospital.”
In addition to running the mitral valve program, Dr. Smith will serve as Director of Surgical Trials for the Lindner Center.
“One of the things that I’ve always felt, and why I wanted to be involved in research in my career, is I’ve always wanted to have a treatment option I could offer a patient when all other options ran out. Clinical trials give you access to new devices and treatments that you wouldn’t have outside of that trial. Beyond the job of a doctor it’s the opportunity to research new innovations and new developments,” Dr. Smith says.
Dr. Smith’s initial research trials will include a new treatment for atrial fibrillation called DEEP (Dual Epicardial and Endocardial Procedure). “It’s rewarding to be involved in that because I helped write many of the protocols in this area from the very beginning. This trial is sponsored by a local company, AtriCure, in Mason that makes ablation devices to treat atrial fibrillation. They’re actually one of the leaders in the world in that area and they’re right here in Cincinnati.”
Dr. Smith will also be involved in early-stage trials of a new heart valve replacement option.
“We’re going to be one of only three sites in the US that will be implanting this valve for the FDA in an early feasibility trial,” Dr. Answini says. “It’s a revolutionary concept that produces a valve with the durability of a mechanical valve that can last a lifetime, except that blood thinners like Coumadin are not required for the rest of your life.”
Another new physician, Julian Guitron, MD, will be joining the Cardiovascular program in January. He brings nearly a decade of expertise in minimally-invasive procedures, robotic-assisted surgery, endoscopic interventions and lung cancer screening.
“Dr. Guitron is going to head up our Thoracic division at the hospital. He’s going to be doing all the robotic esophagus and lung surgery, particularly for cancer,” Dr. Answini says.
“I’m thrilled with the opportunity to join this fantastic group, and to be able to offer dedicated services in the area of thoracic surgical oncology,” says Dr. Guitron.
To learn more about less invasive surgical heart valve procedures or newer techniques and technologies available at The Christ Hospital, call 513-655-2020.