November 25, 2020

New hope for Caribbean patients with end-stage heart failure

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images_308September 14, 2015 – A new alternative to heart transplants could change the outlook for many patients in the advanced stages of congestive heart failure. The procedure is called left ventricular-assist device ( or VAD), and it involves a mechanical pump that is implanted inside the patient’s chest to help a weakened heart ventricle pump blood throughout the body.

Dr. Brian Bethea, regional medical director of cardiovascular surgery at Tenet Florida, and his team recently performed the first LVAD surgery at – the only hospital between Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale to offer the breakthrough heart therapy.

“What patients with heart failure need to know is that LVADs may help them feel better and live longer than previously possible,” said Dr. Bethea.

According to data released by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) from its strategic plan of action for the prevention and control of chronic non-communicable diseases, the Caribbean region has the highest death rates from heart disease in the Americas. Predictions indicate that the number of people with ischemic heart disease will triple within the next two decades.

“With the rise in chronic non-communicable diseases in the Caribbean, congestive heart failure is reaching alarming epidemic proportions in the region,” said Dr. Henry Steward, a cardiologist in Curacao and president of the , a regional association of cardiologists across the Caribbean.

For many of these individuals, their condition will progress to what is commonly referred to as chronic, advanced or severe heart failure – a progressive and often fatal condition that weakens the heart so it is no longer able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

“Frequently, advanced congestive heart failure is a downward spiral, an existence punctuated with recurrent hospitalizations,” said Dr. Bethea.

The disease not only significantly limits expectancy — with a typical prognosis of six to 12 months — but it robs patients of their quality of life, often leaving them too short of breath or too tired to go out, travel or even dress themselves.

Traditionally, their only hope has been a heart transplant. However, with only about 2,000 donor hearts available each year, the demand for hearts inevitably outweighs the supply.

Dr. Steward believes that LVAD will significantly benefit many Caribbean patients who do not qualify for a heart transplant or have not improved from other forms of treatment. He commends the partnership being forged between Tenet Florida, the Caribbean Cardiac Society and regional physicians to develop and implement shared protocols, training and resources to offer this life-saving treatment.

“An integrated team, encompassing input from all providers, is absolutely critical to improving the quality of life of these complex patients,” added Dr. Bethea. “Our goal is to work with our partners in the region to provide a comprehensive heart failure treatment program in collaboration with our extensive multidisciplinary team at Delray Medical Center.”

If you would like to refer a patient or speak with a physician at the Center for Advanced Heart Therapies at Delray Medical Center, please call 561-982-2219 or email [email protected]


Brian Bethea, MD, Cardiac Surgery
Dr. Bethea is board-certified by the American Board of Surgery and American Board of Thoracic Surgery. He specializes in minimally invasive heart valve replacement and repair, catheter-based heart therapies including: transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) – replacing the aortic valve via a catheter rather than traditional open heart surgery, thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR), aortic, mitral, and tricuspid surgeries and a minimally invasive approach to left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) for advanced heart failure. His practice is based in Delray Beach.

From 1995 to 2008, Dr. Bethea completed extensive education and training in cardiothoracic surgery. He graduated medical school from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and completed his residency at The Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Surgery in Baltimore. Dr. Bethea also completed his fellowship and research fellowship at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Phillip Habib, MD, Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology
Phillip Habib, MD is an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist who came from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida to The Center for Advanced Heart Therapies at Delray Medical Center. He graduated medical school from Northeast Ohio Medical University and completed internal medicine residency at The Ohio State University. He completed general cardiology fellowship at University of Florida in Jacksonville in addition to an advanced echocardiography fellowship at University of Pittsburgh. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Habib has a number of interests including: cardiac resynchronization therapy, mechanical circulatory support, pulmonary arterial hypertension, valvular heart disease, advanced cardiac imaging, advanced heart failure, and cardiac transplantation.

Meghan Ciganik, BSN, RN, CHFN, Lead VAD Coordinator
Prior to coming to Delray Medical Center, Meghan Ciganik spent 4 years at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas caring for patients with ventricular assist devices (VADs) and heart transplant recipients. As a VAD Coordinator, Meghan is an integral part of the multidisciplinary team at The Center for Advanced Heart Therapies at Delray Medical Center. Her prior cardiovascular nursing experience spans seventeen years at Duke University and the University of Wisconsin Hospital System. Meghan went to nursing school in Green Bay, Wisconsin.



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