Photo by Shane Harms
Guests of the seminar, Darius Fullmer and Brian Burke (right) attempt to perform a mock surgery on a a pig heart.

Pig heart received triple bypass by hospital guests

Cardiac seminar held at Swedish Hospital

Feb. 26 the Seattle Science Foundation partnered with the Swedish Hospital at Cherry Hill to host a seminar devoted to heart surgery where over 20 guests, students and past patients were invited to explore cardiology and surgical procedures.

Surgeon Glen Barnhart, M.D. , presented on the complications that can arise in the heart and how Swedish, a leader in cardiovascular surgery, provides the skilled surgeons and technological support needed in in these procedures. Moreover, Barnharts said that it’ not just the surgeons, but rather a team of 8 medical staff assisting in the operation, consisting of anesthesiologists, nurses, and cardiologists. He said that the old style of a surgeons running the show are over and that a team of specialist all work together to find the best possible solution for the patient.

“This is an important issue because heart health is not taken as seriously as it should,” said Barhart. He explained that heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans with coronary heart disease as the most common.

According to the Center for Disease and Control the disease kills 600,000 people a year.

Cardiologist, O. Madalina Petrescu, M.D., gave a thorough presentation of the anatomy of the heart and Barnhart followed with a step-by-step procedure of a filmed surgery.

To give attendees a more visceral experience, they were invited to perform surgical maneuvers of their own guided by surgeons. Pig hearts were used because they are the most anatomically similar to humans. Guests were walked through how to perform corrections to leaflets or “chutes” that open and close in the mitral valve of the heart, which is a common problematic area.

Instructors said that the chutes need to open and close like two hands making the “prayer” image, but sometimes the chords that hold the chutes to the in place to the pulmonary muscle calcify and give way resulting in a poor pressure seal during each heart beat and blood leaking back from the direction it came.

“The heart is made really well. Who or what ever made it did an amazing job. It’s a lot like irrigation and plumbing,” said Howard Lewis, M.D., who was one of the surgical instructors at the seminar.

On top of surgery, guests operated daVinci: a multi-limbed robot that allows surgeons to remotely do surgeries via hand held controls. Moreover, guests were shown diagnostic methods and toured the emergency room.

Brian Burke of Edmonds, a participant, said he wanted to attend the event because he randomly came across it online and has been interested in cardiology ever since the first heart was transplanted years ago.

Swedish is ranked in the top two percent of cardiac programs in the country and has performed over 50,000 cardiac surgeries to date.

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