Northwestern’s Bicuspid Aortic Valve Program Highlights Trend To Sub-Specialization
One trend I’ve noticed over the years is that surgeons and cardiac centers are becoming “sub-specialists” specific to heart valve treatment. By sub-specialization, I mean that clinics are extending significant resources to advance valvular therapy by disease type, by surgical technique and by patient risk factors. For example, three weeks ago, I met with a surgeon who suggested that 99% of his procedures are mitral valve repairs.
Last Monday, the trend to “sub-specialization” became more apparent when Chicago-based Northwestern Memorial Hospital launched a dedicated Bicuspid Aortic Valve Program within its distinguished Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.
Prior to learning about Northwestern’s BAV program, I knew that a handful of surgeons and cardiac centers specialized in bicuspid aortic valve treatment. However, I had yet to hear of a complete, end-to-end program dedicated to bicuspid aortic valve disease — a disorder that impacts 1%-2% of the population.
“Care for patients with a bicuspid aortic valve is complex,” stated Dr. Patrick M. McCarthy, director of Northwestern’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. “This program is the first to support a patient from A to Z, through screening, monitoring, family assessment, treatment and research.”
Here is a great video about bicuspid aortic valves, the genetics of this congenital defect, Northwestern’s BAV Program and Deby Pippin, a patient with a two-leaflet aortic valve.
To manage this unique program, Northwestern called upon leading physicians including Dr. Jyothy Puthumana, Dr. Paul Fedak, Dr. Mark Markel and Doctor Chris Malaisrie. Interestingly, this cross-functional team includes cardiologists, surgeons, radiologists and a dedicated research nurse.
To learn more, I spoke with Colleen Clennon, RN, Bicuspid Aortic Valve Nurse Clinician, at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. Colleen noted, “I’m here to make sure each patient with a BAV is taken care of throughout their entire treatment process.”
Congratulations to Northwestern for the launch of its BAV program! Like many patients in our community, I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. That said, I believe this approach to specialized treatment will be very valuable for patients and their families — now and in the future.
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.