UPMC Passavant, with campuses in McCandless and Cranberry, has been serving the northern communities for over 50 years. As the hospital’s new Chair of Cardiology, Suresh Mulukutla, MD, is excited about the continued expansion of UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute (HVI) care and technology for patients in the north, as well as advancing specialized cardiovascular care and programs, closer to home.
At UPMC Passavant, a multidisciplinary team of heart and vascular experts provide advanced cardiovascular care and treatment for every type of heart and vascular condition. They utilize the latest technology, conduct cutting-edge research, and participate in clinical trials to give patients access to the best possible solutions for their cardiac conditions.
“We take a lot of pride in that the hospital has been available to the community for comprehensive medical care, and specifically cardiovascular care,” says Dr. Mulukutla, an interventional cardiologi
st and director of analytics for HVI-cardiology. “We are grateful for the confidence and the trust the community has placed in us.”
Dr. Mulukutla, who joined UPMC in 2003, credits this trust from the community for spurring the many initiatives in the growing cardiovascular program at UPMC Passavant, which has witnessed immense strides in the past several years.
Cardiac Care: A Team Approach
UPMC Passavant applies a team approach to cardiac care—a true collaboration among physicians, cardiologists, cardiac and vascular surgeons, technologists, anesthesiologists, nurses, and more.
“That’s the foundational aspect of future growth in the north,” notes Dr. Mulukutla. “We are convinced that collaboration leads to the great patient outcomes we have here.”
A prime example of this collaborative approach is evident in recent initiatives, such as expanding the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) program to UPMC Passavant. The TAVR procedure is used to treat severe aortic stenosis—a debilitating condition that involves the narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve. This innovative, minimally invasive surgery replaces the traditional option of open heart surgery and provides many benefits including a shorter hospital stay, less pain, and faster recovery.
Dr. Mulukutla notes that this service requires many experts to work together including the patient’s primary care doctor, cardiologists, surgeons, and radiologists.
“It takes that team approach to determine what the best care plan is for a particular patient and to identify if this person is best suited for a TAVR procedure,” he adds.
Another collaborative aspect is exhibited through the approach to vascular care, where the team of vascular surgeons takes a less invasive, endovascular approach to treating patients. And they make caring for patients across specialties more convenient because the vascular experts and cardiologists are in the same office space.
“Passavant is uniquely situated in this way,” says Dr. Mulukutla.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant is a tertiary care center—meaning the advanced, high-quality care and the resources of an academic medical center are available to residents in Pittsburgh’s northern suburbs, closer to home. In addition to TAVR, the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute also provides cardio-oncology, mitral valve surgery, open heart surgery, as well as WATCHMAN™ implants for atrial fibrillation (AFib). (WATCHMAN™ is a trademark of Boston Scientific.)
AFib is among the most common heart conditions worldwide, and the WATCHMAN™ procedure is designed for patients with AFib who are at risk of having a stroke and can’t go on blood thinners. The implanted device, which is about the size of a quarter, permanently seals off the heart’s left atrial appendage. This helps to keep clots from entering the bloodstream and helps to prevent strokes.
“The WATCHMAN™ program has grown tremendously here at UPMC Passavant,” says Dr. Mulukutla.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute works closely with primary care doctors to identify patients who may be at-risk for complications related to their medical therapy who may not have been previously considered for the WATCHMAN™ device.
“We have a real opportunity to help our colleagues identify these patients and make sure they are aware this technology exists,” he adds.
As a tertiary care center, the hospital is also fully equipped to handle emergency cardiac interventions. A team of world-class interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses, and technologists are available around the clock, and some are even required to live near the hospital because when duty calls, they must arrive at UPMC Passavant's state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratory within 30 minutes.
Comprehensive Cardiovascular Care, Close to Home
At UPMC Passavant, the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute provides a wide range of care spanning basic diagnostic tests to advanced cardiac imaging to the most advanced surgical procedures. Residents in the northern suburbs don’t need to travel far to seek this expert care.
“We can’t overstate how important it is to have the ability to take care of patients locally and for them to feel like they have a place to go for medical and surgical services in their backyard,” says Dr. Mulukutla. “We have worked to build trust with the community, so they feel comfortable getting their comprehensive heart care here. And, when a hospital is closer to home, we find that patients don’t delay their care when issues arise.”
Charting the Future
Dr. Mulukutla is especially elated for continued expansion of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant. New programs and partnership with other medical specialties will cater to specific populations with unique risk factors.
One such initiative, launching at UPMC Passavant in early 2021, is the Magee-Womens Heart Program, a dedicated women’s cardiology program and collaboration between UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital and the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
“This is an important endeavor because women have unique risk factors that are often overlooked,” says Dr. Mulukutla. “This is an opportunity to further provide comprehensive care for women.”
He adds that women generally seek care when they are younger, during pregnancy, or older. But it’s often middle age when risk factors start to accumulate.
“We are trying to bridge the gap between these two extremes so that we can prevent the future development of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Mulukutla.
Another program coming to UPMC Passavant in 2021—cardio-oncology—is in partnership with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. This novel program will serve cancer patients who often have unique heart issues related to their diagnosis or resulting from the many medications, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments they receive, and require close cardiac follow-up care and imaging.
In addition, the electrophysiologists at UPMC Passavant are collaborating with general cardiologists and genetic counselors to launch the UPMC Center for Inherited Heart Disease—a clinic focused on inherited arrythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, that are passed down from generation to generation. Some genetic disorders can put patients at risk for serious cardiac conditions including ventricular tachycardia. The program will offer comprehensive evaluations for patients and their families, from both cardiologists and genetic counselors, as well as close, follow-up care.
And as the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute continues to expand its dedicated programs, it will bring on more experts, such as heart failure specialists to take care of patients with congestive heart failure, and imaging capabilities will multiply to include new options, such as cardiac MRI.
UPMC has invested in integrating data across its 40 hospitals, which has allowed the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute to identify new opportunities to enhance patient care through specialized programs. As director of analytics for HVI-cardiology, Dr. Mulukutla and his team leverage a vast amount of data to make constant improvements to the high-quality care they provide.
By analyzing the type of care patients are getting at each of the hospitals, heart and vascular experts can proactively evaluate outcomes and ask questions like: Where are outcomes the best? Can we identify patterns of care that are leading to the best outcomes and patient experiences?
“That kind of data is powerful and quite unique among hospitals across the United States,” says Dr. Mulukutla.
“We can examine what’s going on at a granular level, make changes based on the data, and continue to follow how people are doing and how care is being delivered. It provides constant learning and improvement opportunities. I don’t think you can do that unless you have the data that allows you to understand the current state, implement interventions to improve outcomes, and measure the impact of those initiatives.”
In the last 20 years, cardiac care and services at UPMC Passavant have grown from essential cardiac care to a center for advanced care and services, with a full team of multidisciplinary experts and a road map of continued expansion.
“That has been part of UPMC’s commitment to our communities—so that patients don’t have to travel hours away, or even into the city, to obtain world-class care—which is what they are going to receive here at UPMC Passavant,” says Dr. Mulukutla.
To Learn More
To learn more about the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant or to schedule an appointment, call 833-217-1988.