MedStar Orthopaedic Institute Performs Region’s First Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

BALTIMORE —A team of spine experts led by veteran surgeons Paul Asdourian, MD and Paul McAfee, MD of MedStar Orthopaedic Institute, became the first in the mid-Atlantic region to use robotic GPS navigation to perform a lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) through a tiny incision in the patient’s side.

They first applied the technology March 23 at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital on a lumbar fusion case to replace two discs and align the spine of a 55-year old female. The patient had been suffering from painful, degenerative disc disease and arthritis in her lower back that prevented her from being able to stand up straight.

With a standard approach to fusion surgery, the spine is accessed through the abdomen, or posteriorly, through a large incision in the back.

“Going in through the patient’s side means you don’t have to cut through as many muscles or surrounding tissue, there’s significantly less blood loss and the incision is smaller,” said Dr. McAfee, a pioneer of the LLIF technique.

Dr. Asdourian and Dr. McAfee used ExcelsiusGPS® technology to navigate surgical instruments and hardware through a small incision at the waist, and with precision, safely and accurately removed the damaged discs, inserted spacer bone grafts to separate vertebrae and lifted pressure off pinched nerves. The robotics ensured visualization of the patient’s anatomy during the procedure, streamlined surgical workflow and reduced x-ray radiation exposure to the team.

“We can be more precise doing the LLIF approach using the robotic navigation,” Dr. McAfee said. “If you’re going to put something inside the human body, you have to figure out where to start and you have to figure out the trajectory to get to where you’re going. You spend as much time planning out the surgery as you do performing it but you go in knowing exactly which instruments you’re using, the size of the implant, and you’re not doing a  lot of improvisation at the time of surgery.”

“It's a more effective approach in trying to change the alignment of the spine,” added Dr. Asdourian, “so that we recreated the normal curvature of her back and she would be able to stand up straight. Having the robot to navigate the placement of your instrumentation so that you know that your instruments are in a perfect position, was hugely successful.”

The bone graft they implanted will bridge the two bones to promote fusion. Within three to six months, new bone cells will grow around the graft and fuse the two vertebrae, forming one solid piece of bone.

“Without the robotic navigation, we would have done this from a posterior approach,” Dr. Asdourian explained. “But to do so, you have to be more aggressive in removing bone with greater blood loss and it's a harder operation for patients to recover from. This case didn’t require a blood transfusion, and the patient is able to stand straight up. The case went perfectly and she’s doing great.”

Patients may be a candidate for LLIF if they’ve been diagnosed with:

  • degenerative disc disease
  • low-grade spondylolisthesis
  • mild to moderate scoliosis
  • symptoms that do not improved with physical therapy or medication

Patients may not be a candidate for the procedure if they have any of the following:

  • damaged disc at L5-S1, because the hip bone blocks access
  • severe spondylolisthesis or scoliosis
  • other problems that would prevent bone fusion
  • prior abdominal surgery near the kidneys

For more information on robotic navigation lateral lumbar interbody fusion, or to schedule an appointment, call: 410-554-2175.


About MedStar Health
At MedStar Health, we use the best of our minds and the best of our hearts to serve our patients, those who care for them, and our communities. Our 30,000 associates and 4,700 affiliated physicians are committed to living this promise through our core SPIRIT values—Service, Patient first, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork—across our more than 300 locations including 10 hospitals, ambulatory, and urgent care centers. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar Health is training future physician leaders to care for the whole person and is advancing care through the MedStar Health Research Institute. From our telemedicine and urgent care services to the region’s largest home health agency, we’re committed to providing high-quality health care that’s also easy and convenient for our patients. At MedStar Health—It’s how we treat people. Learn more at MedStarHealth.org.

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

MedStar Health Cancer Network Lights Hospitals Blue for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

In honor Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, several of our hospitals are illuminating their campuses in blue to raise awareness about the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S.

“In this country, colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, but it doesn’t have to be, said Dr. David Stein, regional chief of surgery and colorectal surgeon. “With the screenings, we can find polyps, or abnormal growths, before they turn into cancer. Treatments are most effective in early stages of cancer.”

Read more.

MedStar Union Memorial Utilizing Novel 3D Printed Talus Bone Replacements Customized Metal Implants to Preserve Joints and Maintain Motion

BALTIMORE —Foot and ankle surgeons at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital are making use of novel 3D printing technology to custom replicate the talus bone in patients suffering from bone death known as avascular necrosis (AVN).  Reconstruction of the ankle with a 3D printed replacement ensures a perfect match of the patient’s anatomy and averts the need for motion-limiting fusion surgery or amputation.

In December, orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Walter Hembree became the first specialist within MedStar Health to perform a total talus replacement with a 3D printed implant when he reconstructed the ankle of Kamonte Johnson, a 20-year-old musician and college student, whose talus was fragmenting and collapsing from AVN.

The talus bone is critical to the function of the ankle: it bears the weight of the entire body, and joins the two leg bones, the tibia and fibula, to the foot. Fractures of the talus are a common cause of AVN, which occurs when the bone dies from a lack of blood supply. However, the condition can also occur without any known cause.

The implant fabrication process begins by reversing CT images of the healthy talus bone in the patient’s opposite foot to create three implants of slightly different sizes. In this case, Dr. Hembree utilized Restor3D, a company in Durham, North Carolina, to replicate Kamonte’s diseased bone. During surgery, the best fit is determined, and the final cobalt chrome talus is implanted.

“Three-dimensional printing technology is becoming more prevalent but is still very young,” said Dr. Hembree. “This approach is a huge leap into the future of foot and ankle surgery. The patient had complete talar avascular necrosis. Without this technology, the options for this patient were limited and likely would have involved fusing his heel bone to his leg bone. After discussing options, we decided together that replacing the bone with a 3D printed implant would be a good option for him, and I was very pleased that we could offer it. The results have been exciting."

“I’m very active,’ said Kamonte. “I thought my pain was an overuse injury, but I went from walking ten blocks with the marching band, to not being able to walk at all. I couldn’t even put my shoe on, the pain got so bad. In my first physical therapy session, I was surprised at how much motion I already had in my foot. I am walking again without pain for the first time in years.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Hembree, or any of the experts at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute, call 877-34-ORTHO.


About MedStar Health
At MedStar Health, we use the best of our minds and the best of our hearts to serve our patients, those who care for them, and our communities. Our 30,000 associates and 4,700 affiliated physicians are committed to living this promise through our core SPIRIT values—Service, Patient first, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork—across our more than 300 locations including 10 hospitals, ambulatory, and urgent care centers. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar Health is training future physician leaders to care for the whole person and is advancing care through the MedStar Health Research Institute. From our telemedicine and urgent care services to the region’s largest home health agency, we’re committed to providing high-quality health care that’s also easy and convenient for our patients. At MedStar Health—It’s how we treat people. Learn more at MedStarHealth.org.

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

MedStar Health Partners with Baltimore Organizations and Stoop Storytelling Tonight

microphone and empty stool with spotlight onBALTIMORE, MD — MedStar Health and nine Baltimore organizations are partnering with the Stoop Storytelling series to present Of Substance, a free virtual forum where seven candid people will share their stories of thrill, peril, regret and their complicated relationships with drugs and alcohol. The event includes a special musical performance by Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon, an American Idol Top 10 Finalist, and will stream live tonight at 7 p.m. on each partner Facebook page, or here.

The Stoop Storytelling series is a Baltimore-based live show and podcast that features people who share their true, personal journey. Partnering with MedStar Health are Jewish Community Services, Behavioral Health System Baltimore, Catholic Charities, Baltimore Jewish Council, Maryland Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, NAMI Metro Baltimore, Creative Alliance, Goucher College and Baltimore Magazine, to bring awareness to the impact Of Substance use, drive education, prevention and treatment.

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has identified September as Recovery Month to increase awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders. Of Substance offers inspiring firsthand accounts of recovery that demonstrate the effectiveness of treatment and may mitigate stigma and misconceptions that potentially discourage others from seeking help.

"Jewish Community Services is committed to raising awareness about the potential risks of using drugs and alcohol," said Joan Grayson Cohen, Esq., LCSW-C, executive director for Jewish Community Services. "Through our work in schools and in the community, we know that young adults can be particularly vulnerable to some of the unintended, potentially life-changing social, emotional and physical consequences. JCS is proud to partner in this important evening of sharing and thoughtful conversation.”

“MedStar Health knows the impact substance use in our communities, and the first step that leads to solutions is to eradicate stigma that will provide education and courage to receive treatment,” said Ryan Moran, director of Community Health for MedStar Health. “This event offers the chance to do that through the power of sharing lived experiences with substance use. Our organization is proud to partner with some of the most important organizations in the Baltimore region to bring this forum to the communities we serve.”

For information, visit – bit.do/stoop-ofsubstance.

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

Toe and Knee Bones Used in First Ever Double Flap Hand Surgery

BALTIMORE—Using a bone from a patient’s knee and a toe from his foot, Drs. James Higgins and Ryan Katz of Curtis National Hand Center, applied a novel and previously unreported approach to rebuild the entire thumb of a 45-year old Glen Burnie man at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, June 9. The complex microsurgery case used two simultaneous tissue flaps to reconstruct a thumb that was completely amputated in miter saw accident last year.

“I believe his procedure- the double flap surgery- is the solution for patients with particularly severe hand injuries.  Although it is a new level of technical complexity, it offers hope for patients with similar traumatic injuries to return to a normal life,” said Dr. Higgins, Chief of Curtis National Hand Center.

When a miter saw accident left a contractor’s hand thumbless, surgeons at Curtis National Hand Center made him a new one.

Samuel Dillsworth arrived at MedStar Union Memorial by medivac in November with an injury known as a complete thumb avulsion amputation, in which the thumb was pulled entirely off the hand at its base – where the hand meets the wrist.

Toes serve as a nearly perfect replacements for amputated fingers since they are similar in almost every way having bone, tendon, joints, nerves, arteries and veins. In the most severe injuries, the big toe can be used to replace a thumb because of its greater potential to match the appearance of a thumb with plastic surgery. By harvesting only the smallest portion of the toe needed to reconstruct the thumb, patients do not experience difficulty with balance or walking. 

“My hands are my life,” said Mr. Dillsworth, a custom fabrication contractor. “I build cabinets from scratch and I love what I do. I need to use both my hands.”

Mr. Dillsworth’s injury presented a particular challenge: he lost the entire thumb and a long length of the bones that support the thumb base.  The destruction caused by the accident would normally have made his case impossible to reconstruct, even with use of his toe.

“Because of the patient’s substantial metacarpal loss, we felt a [big] toe transfer reconstruction would result in the new thumb being too short for adequate function. We had to create a novel procedure to give him the ability to use his hand again,” said Dr. Katz. “We planned a procedure involving adding length to the toe transfer by using a bone segment taken from the lower end of the femur, along with the small vessels on the medial surface of the bone.”

To make sure the toe and knee bones survived after transfer to the hand, Dr. Higgins and Dr. Katz together performed two simultaneous complicated microvascular surgeries.  They harvested the tissue from both sites, (the foot and knee), each carefully removed with their attached small blood vessels that would enable them to live in their new locations. Removing those structures with their vessels is known as a flap.  The surgeons affixed the toe flap to the femur bone flap. They restored blood supply to the parts by sewing the millimeter wide blood vessels under a microscope, using sutures thinner than human hair.  Combining these two flaps together, the surgeons were able to create, de novo, a full length thumb.

“I haven’t smiled so much in a long time,” Mr. Dillsworth said. “When they pulled the bandages off my hand I was afraid it would look freaky because my thumb was my toe, but it looks great. The next day I was actually moving my thumb.”

“Mr. Dillsworth can expect to use his hand in the same way he did prior to the accident,” said Dr. Higgins. “Toe-to-hand transfer surgery is the state-of-the-art reconstruction for the loss of multiple fingers or the thumb. Perfecting this technique is so gratifying because it enables us to give patients back their ability to grasp. No single operation of the hand vaults a patient’s function so dramatically.”

About Curtis National Hand Center
Since 1975, people all over the world have placed their hands in ours – Curtis National Hand Center. From repairing traumatic injuries to treating repetitive motion injuries, arthritic conditions and congenital differences, our goal is to restore the patient's use of the hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder to the greatest degree possible. Our long history of experience, outstanding medical staff, and state-of-the-art facilities combine to create a treatment center that is the first choice in caring for the hand or arm, no matter how common or complex.

Today, Curtis National Hand Center is recognized as the largest, most experienced hand center in the nation. In fact, the hand center was designated by Congress as the National Center for the Treatment of the Hand and Upper Extremity. Call 877-UMH-HAND for a physician referral.

About MedStar Health
At MedStar Health, we use the best of our minds and the best of our hearts to serve our patients, those who care for them, and our communities. Our 30,000 associates and 4,700 affiliated physicians are committed to living this promise through our core SPIRIT values—Service, Patient first, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork—across our more than 300 locations including 10 hospitals, ambulatory, and urgent care centers. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar Health is training future physician leaders to care for the whole person and is advancing care through the MedStar Health Research Institute. From our telemedicine and urgent care services to the region’s largest home health agency, we’re committed to providing high-quality health care that’s also easy and convenient for our patients. At MedStar Health—It’s how we treat people. Learn more at MedStarHealth.org.

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

MedStar Health Foot and Ankle Surgeon Helps Competitive Athlete Get Back to Pole Vaulting

Stephanie Coleman tore her Achilles’ tendon in the middle of a decathlon, but that didn’t stop her from finishing her last two events. And thanks to foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. Jake Wisbeck, it didn’t stop her from competing again. Learn more about her journey to back to pole vaulting. 

For an appointment, call 877-34-ORTHO or to learn more about Dr. Wisbeck, visit MedStarOrtho.org/Wisbeck

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

MedStar Health Names David Stein MD, Regional Chief of Surgery

BALTIMORE— MedStar Health has named colorectal surgeon, David Stein, MD, Regional Chief of Surgery for MedStar Health and Chairman of Surgery at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center.

In the dual leadership role, Dr. Stein will oversee quality, safety and market leadership initiatives for MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, MedStar Harbor, MedStar Good Samaritan and MedStar Union Memorial Hospitals, and lead a sweeping optimization plan for the new 82,000-square foot surgical pavilion now under construction at MedStar Franklin Square. Read more.

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

MedStar Health is First in Maryland to Replace Mitral Valve Via Tendyne Transcatheter

BALTIMORE—Drs. Brian Bethea, John Wang, Nauman Siddiqi and Antony Kaliyadan of the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute (MHVI) at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, successfully implanted the state’s first Tendyne transcather mitral valve replacement (TMVR) system November 14, as part of a national clinical trial testing the safety and efficacy of the implant as an option to open-heart surgery. Dr. Bethea is the MedStar principal investigator on the trial.

The patient, an 86-year-old Pikesville woman, was enrolled in the trial because of mitral regurgitation, (MR) a debilitating, progressive and life-threatening condition in which the heart's mitral valve does not close completely, causing blood to flow backward and leak into the left atrium of the heart.

The backward flow causes severe fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and a rapid, fluttering heartbeat. Severe cases can cause fluid to build up in the lungs, strain the heart and lead to heart failure. Patients with MR are also at risk for blood clots and stroke.

Four million Americans are affected by mitral regurgitation with only about 20 percent treatable by open heart surgery.

“The patient in this case really had limited treatment options because of the severity of her valvular disease her age and other factors,” said Dr. Bethea, Vice Chief of Cardiac Surgery at MedStar Union Memorial. “This is truly a groundbreaking advancement that is potentially lifesaving for patients who would not be able to undergo the risks of open-heart surgery. It will dramatically improve their quality of life.”

The device is a tri-leaflet, bioprosthetic valve available in multiple sizes, that once inserted through a small puncture in the side of the chest, and into a tiny incision at the tip of the heart is positioned inside the patient’s own mitral valve. Using a unique tether mechanism, the valve position is stabilized when the apical pad is applied directly to the heart.

The Tendyne mitral valve system is the first and only mitral valve replacement device that can be repositioned and fully retrieved, ensuring precise placement during implantation, which could improve patient outcomes.

The clinical trial, called SUMMIT, is expected to enroll 1,010 patients at 80 sites across the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

Tendyne Mitral Valve System is under investigation by FDA and is not commercially available.

Please click here more information

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About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit MedStarHealth.org.

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

Curtis National Hand Center Experts Perform Rare and Innovative Surgery on Triplet Girl

Baltimore, MD — On New Year’s Eve in 2016, Juan and Alma Mota swaddled their precious new deliveries in pink and counted 30 perfect toes and 29 perfect fingers. Of their beautiful triplet daughters, Julianna was born with a rare congenital anomaly known as radial longitudinal deficiency (RDL) or club hand, in which the radius bone of her forearm failed to develop normally. The result of this for Julianna was a shortened forearm, with her hand folded inward at the wrist and an under developed thumb.

The triplets’ birth came just ten days after surgeons at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital’s Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore performed the first surgery of its kind in the U.S., for the treatment of RDL on a 7-year old boy. Dr. James Higgins, chief of the Curtis National Hand Center and Dr. Ryan Katz, attending hand surgeon, used a bone with growth plates taken from the child’s toe, to construct a full-length radius. In a single surgery, Drs. Katz and Higgins were able to lengthen the boy’s forearm, correct the posture of his hand, and promote the potential for future growth. This novel procedure garnered national and international attention.

The unique approach differs from traditional RDL surgical treatments, which focus primarily on improving the appearance of the hand, but do not address function or allow for growth. One classic method of treatment fuses the hand to the forearm in a straight position. This classic approach removes the ability to move the hand at the wrist and does not stand the test of time – often resulting in the hand curving inward again as the child grows. 

After finding national news coverage of the case online, the Mota family, determined to find the best treatment for Julianna, set out on 1600-mile journey from Ft. Morgan, Colorado to the Curtis National Hand Center in Baltimore.

Helping Julianna achieve optimum use and an aesthetic result was a three-part process that began in September. Doctors applied a distraction device to lengthen and straighten the curved forearm, and to create space in the joint for the anticipated transfer of her toe. With this device, the forearm was lengthened over a course of six weeks.

In October, the next and most complex procedure was performed to harvest Julianna’s second toe and transplant the bone into her forearm. Using high powered microscopes in the operating room, and sutures thinner than human hair, Drs. Katz and Higgins surgically reconnected the tiny vessels of the bone’s blood supply into the space created by the lengthening device, to construct a partial radius bone. Transplanting the bone with its own vascular system and growth plates ensures Julianna’s arm will grow, remain straight, and have motion.

This is a technically challenging surgery where two attending surgeons and their teams operate simultaneously:  One prepares the hand to receive the transfer, and one works at the foot to remove the toe, while carefully preserving the blood supply.

“Both aspects of the case are very challenging,” Dr. Katz said. “At the hand, the normal anatomy is not there, and you have to preserve the important structures and the blood flow to the hand, prepare the site for a boney inset, a tendon transfer and ultimately, revascularization of the toe. We have to get it alive again.

“At the toe, you have to raise everything you’re going to use. We prepared tendon, nerve, bone and skin. Ultimately, you have to protect the critically important artery and vein.”

Additionally, and most innovatively, Drs. Katz and Higgins “banked” a piece of bone which otherwise would be discarded, by vascularizing it into Julianne’s hand. “Here it will remain safe and alive in her own body, until her parents are ready to move forward with surgery to construct a functioning thumb,” said Dr. Katz. “By banking the bone, there is potential for future reconstructive thumb surgery. It would require a tendon transfer, but we’ve laid the foundation for a novel reconstruction option.’

In November, the Mota family returned to MedStar Union Memorial Hospital to remove the hardware scaffolding that kept her little arm immobilized an ensure proper healing. Now in a cast, Julianna’s hand is upright, her forearm is straight, and will grow as she grows. She recovered quickly from the foot surgery; is walking and running without difficulty – challenging her sisters to keep up.

For more information on the Curtis National Hand Center or the MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, please visit medstarunionmemorial.org.

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About The Curtis National Hand Center

Since 1975, people all over the world have placed their hands in ours – The Curtis National Hand Center. From repairing traumatic injuries to treating repetitive motion injuries, arthritic conditions and congenital differences, our goal is to restore the patient's use of the hand, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder to the greatest degree possible. Our long history of experience, outstanding medical staff, and state-of-the-art facilities combine to create a treatment center that is the first choice in caring for the hand or arm, no matter how common or complex.

Today, The Curtis National Hand Center is recognized as the largest, most experienced hand center in the nation. In fact, the hand center was designated by Congress as the National Center for the Treatment of the Hand and Upper Extremity.

About MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit, 223-bed acute care teaching hospital with a strong emphasis on cardiac care, orthopaedics and sports medicine. With roots stemming back to 1854, MedStar Union Memorial has provided high quality care for 160 years. As one of the region's top specialty hospitals, MedStar Union Memorial is home to: The Curtis National Hand Center, the only hand center designated by Congress as The National Center for the Treatment of Hand and Upper Extremity; MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute, a premier cardiovascular program in the mid-Atlantic, aligned with Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute, the nation’s #1 heart program; and MedStar Union Memorial Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, the oldest hospital based Sports Medicine Program in Maryland (founded in 1979).  In addition, MedStar Union Memorial offers a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient services including oncology, diabetes and endocrinology, general surgery, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery and palliative care.

MedStar Union Memorial is accredited by The Joint Commission (TJC). It is the first hospital in Baltimore to receive spine certification by TJC, and the first in the state of Maryland to receive advanced certification for palliative care. MedStar Union Memorial is also TJC-certified in hip and knee replacement, CARF-accredited in inpatient rehabilitation and Curtis Work Rehabilitation Services, and has been designated as a Primary Stroke Center and the Hand Trauma Center for Maryland.

MedStar Union Memorial is a proud member of MedStar Health, a non-profit, regional health care system with 10 hospitals and more than 20 other health-related services in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area.

For more information, visit MedStarUnionMemorial.org.

Media Contact

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

Carrie Wells
Public Relations Specialist, MedStar Health Baltimore
443-613-1569 
[email protected]

MedStar Health Gives Infiltrative Cardiomyopathy Patients New Hope for Life

BALTIMORE—MedStar Health Heart and Vascular Institute has launched a program at MedStar Union Memorial and MedStar Good Samaritan hospitals to diagnose, treat and research two life-threatening heart conditions that often go unrecognized, and is developing the program into a nationally-recognized center of excellence that has no peer in the region.

The two conditions – cardiac amyloidosis and cardiac sarcoidosis – are known as infiltrative cardiomyopathies, in which the heart collects deposits of abnormal substances. In cardiac amyloidosis, abnormal components of proteins called amyloid collect in the heart and cause it to become thick and stiff. In cardiac sarcoidosis, clusters of white blood cells called granulomas accumulate within the heart. Both can lead to heart failure, arrythmias, and even sudden death.

MedStar Health is launching the program as new advances in medical imaging, technology and treatments have made diagnosing and treating the conditions easier. Both conditions often go undiagnosed for too long, and MedStar Health heart experts intend to expand care to more patients and catch their diseases earlier.

“Cardiac amyloidosis and sarcoidosis have historically been diseases associated with a poor prognosis,” said Farooq Sheikh, MD, FACC, a heart failure expert who is leading MedStar Health’s infiltrative cardiomyopathy program. “With new medical advances, the chances for improved outcomes for patients with these diseases has never been brighter. Through the MedStar Health program, patients have access to top specialists, the latest technology and a full complement of treatments including clinical trials, LVAD therapy and cardiac transplantations.”

Dr. Sheikh will start seeing patients at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in January 2020. The program will also draw on the expertise of other nationally-recognized heart leaders including George Ruiz, MD, chief of cardiology at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital and MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, and Sandeep Jani, MD, the associate director of advanced heart failure and population health at MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute in the Baltimore region.

Once thought to be rare, heart and vascular experts are increasingly recognizing cardiac amyloidosis as a cause of heart failure. The hard, misfolded proteins involved – amyloid – are also implicated in brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Its symptoms – shortness of breath, fatigue and palpitations – can mimic other conditions. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a drug called Tafamidis to treat cardiac amyloidosis due to transthyretin (TTR) deposition. Two additional drugs, called patisiran and inotersen, have been approved to treat hereditary amyloidosis complicated by polyneuropathy. These drug developments have given experts new tools against forms of the disease. Several clinical trials are upcoming.

Sarcoidosis is a systemic disease that can affect multiple organs, including the heart. Recently, experts have recognized that the way sarcoidosis affects the heart is an underrecognized cause of heart failure. The disease’s heart involvement is “silent” in almost all cases, leading to underdiagnosis. Newer treatment options include non-steroid immunosuppressive therapies and implantable cardiac defibrillators.

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About the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is a network of highly acclaimed and nationally recognized cardiac experts and care programs spanning all 10 MedStar Health hospitals in the mid-Atlantic region. In the Baltimore area, MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute experts are accessible at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, MedStar Harbor Hospital, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, and more than a dozen community locations.  MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is allied with the Cleveland Clinic, the nation’s #1 heart program, giving patients accelerated access to the most advanced research, technologies and techniques in cardiology and cardiac surgery. This alliance also strengthens excellent clinical care and enables high-level collaboration on research.

About MedStar Health

MedStar Health is a not-for-profit health system dedicated to caring for people in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, while advancing the practice of medicine through education, innovation and research. MedStar’s 30,000 associates, 6,000 affiliated physicians, 10 hospitals, ambulatory care and urgent care centers, and the MedStar Health Research Institute are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. As the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University, MedStar trains more than 1,100 medical residents annually. MedStar Health’s patient-first philosophy combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service. For more information, visit MedStarHealth.org.

Media Contacts

Debra Schindler
Regional Director, Media & Public Relations, MedStar Health Baltimore
Office: 410-554-2496
Cell: 410-274-1260
[email protected]

Carrie Wells
Public Relations Specialist, MedStar Health Baltimore
443-613-1569 
[email protected]