Harvard Heart Letter

Hybrid heart surgery expands options

Collaborative approach aims to improve cardiac care.

Heart problems tend to come in clumps. Arteries clog. Valves don't open or close all the way. The heart's rhythm becomes irregular. Many people face not one but two or more treatment decisions.

Just a few years ago, someone who required multiple cardiac procedures might have had separate procedures done by specialists working in different parts of a hospital. In a catheter lab, a cardiologist would insert a stent to reopen an artery. Later, in an operating room, a cardiac surgeon would fix or replace a faulty valve. Hours might pass in between, involving transport from a sterile environment to an unsterile one and back again. In some cases, the two procedures might even require separate hospital visits.

This fragmented approach to care is starting to change, thanks in part to a much-needed innovation in hospital design: the hybrid operating room. By including all the equipment needed for diagnostic imaging, minimally invasive procedures, and traditional surgery, it lets heart surgeons, cardiologists, electrophysiologists, and other specialists work together in the same space, at the same time. Specialists now travel to the patient, rather than the other way around. These high-tech operating suites make it possible for physicians to treat higher-risk patients and to expand the treatment options available.

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