Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Expands Heart Failure Program

Norton Audubon Hospital receives ventricular assist device accreditation to include care for people needing ventricular assist devices.

Bassel Alkhalil, MD, medical director, mechanical circulatory support program, Kelly McCants, MD, executive director, Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program, Allen Cheng, MD, Norton Cardiothoracic Surgery (seated).

LOUISVILLE Norton Heart & Vascular Institute has expanded services for patients with advanced heart failure to include surgical implantation of ventricular assist devices (VADs) at Norton Audubon Hospital, which recently received VAD accreditation from DNV GL Healthcare and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In early 2020, Norton Audubon Hospital was the winner of the ACC’s HeartCARE Center of Excellence, which is the top level of accreditation for excellence in heart and vascular care.

Since December 2020, two patients have received VADs, and seven are waiting and preparing for the implantation. Over a dozen patients with VADs are being managed by Norton providers, which requires frequent communication between providers and patients.

“The addition of the VAD surgical implantation accreditation is a significant enhancement to our nationally recognized heart failure program,” says Russell F. Cox, president and CEO, Norton Healthcare. “Patients can now receive a VAD implant and continue their follow-up care within Norton Heart & Vascular Institute’s Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program, allowing them to remain close to home and to their support network for this life-saving care.”

In February 2020, Norton Healthcare announced a $1.5 million gift to the Norton Healthcare Foundation from the Robert W. Rounsavall, Jr. Family Foundation Inc. The gift supports Norton Heart & Vascular Institute through the creation of the Rounsavall Family Foundation Endowed Chair and has enabled the additional recruitment of providers and the launch of the VAD program.

DNV GL Healthcare’s accreditation program is approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The program strives to ensure facilities have infrastructure to support ventricular assist device placements through adequate staffing and facilities to care for patients before and after cardiac surgery.

A VAD is a mechanical device that supports the heart in pumping blood through the body when the patient’s heart cannot perform properly. This can be a temporary placement while the patient awaits a heart transplant or a permanent placement to support heart function for life.

“Once a patient receives a VAD, they require frequent follow-up and ongoing provider evaluation and education. Having the ability to follow up close to home is important,” says Bassel Alkhalil, MD, medical director, mechanical circulatory support program, Norton Heart & Vascular Institute.

To support the VAD program, Norton Healthcare has hired an additional cardiothoracic surgeon, Allen Cheng, MD, who joined Norton Cardiothoracic Surgery, which is led by Steven W. Etoch, MD. Cheng, surgical director, heart failure and circulatory support, Norton Heart & Vascular Institute, returned to Louisville after working at Oklahoma Heart Institute Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, where he implanted circulatory mechanical devices.

“The Louisville region has long been known for excellence in heart care, and Norton Audubon Hospital has been at the forefront, having implanted the first Jarvik-7 artificial heart in the city in 1984, under the leadership of Dr. William DeVries,” says Kelly McCants, MD, executive director, Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program. “We are excited to continue building on that heart history and offering VAD placement and ongoing support to our patients.”