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August 28, 2019

Penn Medicine, Arkansas hospital partnering to expedite heart surgery research

Clinical trials have not kept pace with surgical innovations

Health News Heart Disease
Stock_Carroll - Penn Medicine Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Smilow Center for Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

Penn Medicine is partnering with an Arkansas hospital to expedite heart surgery research in an area with a particularly high mortality rate for heart disease.

The partnership with the Little Rock-based CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute is part of a larger program pairing five medical institutions that have conducted extensive cardiothoracic surgery research with qualified institutions that have conducted little clinical research. The latter hospitals also are located in underserved areas with high prevalence rates of cardiac disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes.

Arkansas has the third-highest mortality rate from heart disease in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Across the country, heart disease remains the leading cause of death.

Cardiac surgeries help address some of the most prominent conditions related to heart disease, including coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and valvular heart disease.

Rapid innovation has led to new approaches and technologies for cardiac surgeries, but health officials say clinical research efforts – which validate these approaches – have not kept pace. Part of that lag is due to clinical trial enrollment challenges.

To accelerate research efforts, Penn Medicine's cardiac surgeons will work with physicians at St. Vincent for the next seven years to conduct clinical research studies that test new products, surgical interventions and cardiovascular practices.

Their work will be funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health and is part of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Trials Network's Linked Clinical Research Centers project.

Dr. Michael Acker, Penn Medicine's chief of cardiovascular surgery, said clinical trials involving cardiac surgery historically have been difficult to conduct. But Penn Medicine has done so with the support of the NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Cardiothoracic Surgical Trials Network.

Now, Penn Medicine stands ready to share what its surgeons have learned through those studies.

"Through this collaboration, we have a unique opportunity to share best practices in cardiac surgical research and help develop sustainable models that lead to improvements in patient access and outcomes across (the Arkansas) region," Acker said in a statement.

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