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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 19, 2011

UI first to receive Joint Commission certification for excellence in cardiac valve repair, replacement

University of Iowa Heart and Vascular Center at UI Hospitals and Clinics has become the first program in the nation to receive certification for its cardiac valve repair and replacement program.

The center was granted Disease-Specific Care Certification for cardiac valve repair and replacement by The Joint Commission, the accreditation and certification agency for more than 17,000 health care organizations in the United States. The certification carries a two-year renewal cycle.

"This confirms our commitment to providing the most advanced heart care treatments for patients," says Mark Iannettoni, M.D., professor and head of the UI Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and physician executive director of the UI Heart and Vascular Center. "Our heart valve clinic, established more than three years ago, is a model for other heart centers, with a surgical and medical team and nursing staff trained and dedicated specifically to minimally invasive surgery for heart valve repair and replacement. The Joint Commission certification signals that we're at the forefront and high-water mark of heart valve care."

Traditional heart valve surgery requires a full sternotomy, in which a vertical incision in made along the entire length of a patient's sternum to split the breastbone in order to access the heart. The minimally invasive approach involves an incision about two inches long to remove a small piece of breastbone and create a small opening near the patient's heart valves, notes Robert Farivar, M.D., Ph.D., the UI cardiothoracic surgeon who directs the minimally invasive cardiac surgery center and is surgical director of the heart valve clinic.

"It's a delicate procedure, but one in which we have a lot of experience," Farivar says. "It delivers the same results as a full-sternotomy valve repair, and the benefits to the patient from having a smaller incision are substantial."

Those benefits include reduced trauma during surgery, plus a smaller scar, minimal pain (and less pain medications), and a faster recovery after surgery.

Minimally invasive surgery was "just the ticket," according to Kim Green of Waterloo. The 54-year-old retiree underwent minimally invasive surgery to replace a damaged aortic valve in June 2009. For years before the procedure, Green says, she felt lethargic to the point where even simple household chores seemed to be too much work. Today, she is enrolled in a fitness/wellness class through her local hospital, and she stays active with her friends and family.

"It's just so noticeable how good I feel -- better than I've felt in years," Green says. "My scar is just a couple of inches, not big at all. They did such a good job."

Since 2008, the UI Heart and Vascular Center team has performed more than 200 heart valve surgical procedures per year.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room W319 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945,