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.
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.