Forty years ago, a patient with a life-threatening ventricular arrhythmia had been twice resuscitated out of the hospital.
She was in dire need of an advanced treatment, but such an option barely existed. She was referred to Dr. Peter Kowey, then a physician-scientist at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and his colleagues who implanted the world’s third-ever implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).
ICDs have become the standard of care with almost 100,000 Americans receiving one each year. Access to this lifesaving treatment — from the first in 1980 to the 100,000 expected in 2021 — was made possible thanks to groundbreaking clinical research.
Dr. Kowey and his team moved to Lankenau Medical Center in 1990 and developed a world-class cardiovascular program built upon a solid foundation, established by Drs. Leonard Dreifus, Jack Kelly and Horace McVaugh. From the beginning, Lankenau Heart Institute (LHI) has set a high standard for patient care, physician education and training, and clinical research. Its success has required a concerted organizational commitment to patient care and safety.
This synergy has enabled LHI to offer more options and tailored and individualized treatment plans. Ultimately, research and clinical heart care teams like ours offer hope to patients who feel they’ve exhausted their options.
Since the 1970s, we’ve learned successful research and clinical heart care teams have three characteristics.
Access to Highly Selective Clinical Trials
Cardiac treatments are ever-evolving, and physicians are constantly refining how they deliver patient-centered care. The best intervention for a patient may be in trial phase. Consistently participating in highly selective clinical trials allows care teams to connect a patient who’s maximized other treatment options with an innovative, life-enhancing solution.
For example, through our integrated research and clinical care teams at Lankenau Heart Institute, we’re able to offer less invasive, newer generation devices like transcatheter-based therapies to repair or replace the mitral, aortic or tricuspid valve. In fact, as of January, we offer one of the highest numbers of innovative mitral valve therapies in the U.S. This is heavily due to our team at LHI, singularly focused on patient care through the collaboration of research, clinical practice and education.
We have an expansive inventory of the most advanced cardiovascular clinical trials, encompassing medical and surgical devices, drug therapy and minimally invasive options. Notably, many of these developments have become the standard of care for patients.
These trials focus on disease-based areas such as structural heart, including mitral, aortic and tricuspid valves and left atrial appendage closure; thoracic aorta (aneurysm/dissection); heart failure; and arrhythmia.
Teamwork Approach for Optimal Patient Care
Clinical excellence and innovation attract patients and talent. Conducting academic-level research and training the next generation of physicians helps facilitate the recruitment of renowned physicians, researchers and clinical support staff.
The international reputation that LHI attained for its research and patient care made possible the recruitment of renowned physicians Dr. William Gray, an interventional cardiologist and Chief of Cardiovascular Diseases, and Dr. Basel Ramlawi, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
Dr. Gray was instrumental in bringing the FDA’s Early Feasibility Studies to Lankenau Heart Institute, making it among a few sites designated to conduct these first-in-human clinical research trials.
Equally important as an exemplary research team is staff. The cornerstone of a quality clinical research program, they manage numerous aspects, such as screening for study candidates, conducting patient coordination and education, submitting safety data, and assessing potential adverse events.
Building on this rich legacy, Drs. Gray and Ramlawi, along with other Main Line Health clinical and administrative leaders are growing the breadth and depth of LHI’s research programs and clinical offerings as the premier destination for patients.
The integration of research and clinical care means investing in every patient’s optimal outcome. This investment starts at the top — an institution’s leadership must be receptive to research and its role in elevating patient care.
Research isn’t easy. It requires the recruitment of a seasoned team. Additionally, research isn’t always immediately profitable, but its contribution to the overall cardiovascular program is intrinsically valuable. Heart care advancements are made possible by constantly pushing science’s boundaries and a collective commitment to research.
Today’s vast cardiac treatments would be hardly recognizable to the physicians who implanted the world’s third ICD, but that work, coupled with the past 40 years of research, is a direct result of integrated heart teams. These teams contribute to improving the overall standard of care for tomorrow, impacting the 92 million Americans living with some form of heart disease.
Lankenau Heart Institute, part of Main Line Health, is a recognized leader in innovative cardiology and cardiac surgery research.