2016 Sentara Heart Annual Report

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Sentara Advanced Heart Failure Center

Medical Director, John Herre, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Surgical Director, Michael McGrath, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

The number of people being diagnosed with heart failure continues to increase with nearly 6 million Americans currently affected. To serve the needs of this burgeoning population, Sentara Heart expanded the Sentara Advanced Heart Failure Center in 2014—doubling its capacity.

The center has four subspecialized programs, each with their own distinct specialists and clinics.

1,100 patient treatments

More than 1,100 patients receive treatments—ranging from medication management to the latest innovative technologies—through this cutting-edge program.


On Oct. 30, 2015, center physicians implanted CardioMEMS, a new, miniaturized, wireless heart failure monitor into the pulmonary arteries of eight patients. Sentara Heart was the first in Southeastern Virginia to perform this procedure.

The CardioMEMS system has no wires or batteries, allowing for greater ease of mobility. Daily pulmonary pressure readings taken at a patient’s home and transmitted to the center enable specialists to detect warning signs of heart failure up to 45 days before the onset of symptoms. Clinicians can immediately alter a patient’s treatment to prevent problems from worsening. This proactive step decreases the chances of hospitalization, improves quality of life and reduces healthcare costs.CardioMEMS

In clinical trials, CardioMEMS reduced hospital admissions by 37 percent.

Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)

Sentara Heart is among select U.S. hospitals chosen by manufacturer Thoratec to participate in a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of a new ventricular assist device, or VAD, called HeartMate III. The center’s surgical director, Michael McGrath, MD, is leading the Momentum 3 trial at Sentara Heart.

The HeartMate III incorporates advanced technology that makes surgical placement easier. Single-sided cables enable patients to discreetly slip the external portions of the device into a front pocket and enjoy a more active lifestyle. In 2015, Sentara Heart surgeons implanted the HeartMate III into three patients.

LVADs help the heart’s left ventricle (the main pumping chamber of the heart) deliver blood to the rest of the body. Long-term VADs may serve as bridges to transplantation, stabilizing heart failure patients until a heart transplant is possible, or as destination therapy for those with more advanced heart failure who are not transplant candidates.

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH)

Medical Director, Michael Eggert, MD, Pulmonologist
Advanced Practice Clinician, Vanessa Knowles, MSN, RN, FNP-C

For more than a decade, Sentara Heart has been a pioneering leader in the specialized diagnosis and treatment of a rare, often-fatal heart and lung disease called pulmonary arterial hypertension, or PAH. PAH is a type of high blood pressure in the lungs that causes the arteries in the lungs to tighten and stiffen. This forces the right side of the heart to work harder to push blood out of the heart, through the lungs and into the rest of the body. Over time, this extra stress causes the right side of the heart to enlarge and eventually to fail.


Michael Eggert, MD, medical director of the PAH program at the Advanced Heart Failure Center, refers to PAH-induced right-sided heart failure as “the other heart failure.” The disease often goes undiagnosed until it has progressed to an advanced, more difficult-to-treat stage.Heart-Failure-Center_Hypertension-graphic

“In the 1990s, before specific therapies were developed, half of PAH patients died within three years of diagnosis,” says Dr. Eggert. “Today, our survival time from diagnosis has more than doubled, with some patients living more than 15 years, when the disease is caught and treated early. In time, we may be able to add even more time to patients’ lives with better disease detection and management and the possibility of transplantation.”

In 2016, Sentara Heart’s Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic was accredited as a Pulmonary Hypertension Association Regional Clinical Program (RCP). This designation of clinical excellence recognizes Sentara Heart’s status as a leader in PAH diagnosis and treatment and will further increase the program’s visibility while enhancing regional clinical research and collaboration.

Sentara Heart PAH program highlights include:

  • Disease management of more than 300 patients, which is comparable to patient populations seen at large state academic medical centers
  • Annual diagnostic evaluation of several hundred patients
  • Multidisciplinary PAH care team comprised of a transplant-trained pulmonary hypertension cardiologist, pulmonologists, cardiologists, cardiopulmonary rehab specialists, nurses, cardiac respiratory therapists, clinical coordinators and research coordinators
  • Specifically designated inpatient units within Sentara Heart for disease management of PAH patients
  • Specialized training of staff at Sentara hospitals, as well as within the cardiac ICU and advanced heart failure units at Sentara Heart, in the identification and treatment of PAH
  • Participation in national and international clinical trials focused on identifying new PAH therapies
  • Quarterly educational support group meetings in the Hampton Roads region for patients with PAH and their loved ones
  • Annual PAH symposium to raise disease awareness among clinicians in the medical specialties of pulmonary medicine, critical care, infectious disease, internal medicine, family medicine and respiratory care and to discuss the future direction of the diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease

The Sentara Norfolk General Hospital Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic was one of only three centers nationwide to earn Regional Clinical Program (RCP) designation by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA).This accreditation is based on the program’s ability to deliver quality care to patients living with a complex, often misdiagnosed, life-threatening disease. It is the result of participation in a pilot program with the PHA and a rigorous review process. Conclusion of the RCP pilot has laid solid groundwork toward meeting the PHCC program goals of providing increased access for PH patients to high-quality care and fostering collaboration between regional treatment sites and those receiving PHA’s Center of Comprehensive Care (CCC) accreditation.

“Newer indications and devices allow us to care for the full spectrum of patients with heart failure”

— John Herre, MD, medical director, Advanced Heart Failure Center

To contact the Sentara Advanced Heart Failure Center, call (757) 388-2831 or go online to sentara.com/HeartFailure