Valley Health gains new heart surgeon

Dr. Basel Ramlawi, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is the new chairman of Valley Health’s Heart & Vascular Center and director of the new Advanced Valve and Aortic Center. Kaley Toy/Daily

WINCHESTER – Basel Ramlawi, a cardiothoracic surgeon, recently joined the medical staff of Winchester Medical Center as chairman of Valley Health’s Heart & Vascular Center and director of the new Advanced Valve and Aortic Center at WMC.

“The reason I was recruited over here is to grow the valve program and the aortic program and establish the Advanced Valve and Aortic Center,” he said.

Ramlawi will head the new hybrid procedure room at WMC that is being built. He will be using a new minimally invasive procedure, which he said few other hospitals are using. Less than 10 percent of hospitals are using these advanced operating procedures.

“We are doing a lot of specialized, higher end, more detailed and complex procedures that are going to be equivalent or better than anywhere else in the region,” he said, “We are able to do the same operation with equal or better long term result, through a smaller incision and a quicker recovery with less bleeding and less pain.”

In one heart valve procedure, a small 2 1/2-inch incision is made on the patient’s side, rather than a larger incision through the breastbone that has been done in previous years.

When going through the breastbone, there is a three-month restriction to what you can do, and there’s a limit of 5 to 10 pounds of what you can hold, he said. By going through the side, there are no restrictions. A person can be moving as soon as he or she is able to.

“So someone who is earning a living for their family, who needs to do manual labor, clearly this would be a very good thing for them,” he said.

He also noted that the aesthetics of a smaller incision is a factor for some people who don’t want large scars on the front of their body.

Patients who get this procedure have a faster recovery time as they are home within three to four days. He said the procedure works well for the majority of people.  Another incision spot for those more ill is a puncture in the groin at the femoral artery.

This new procedure also tries to fix, rather than replace valves as much as possible.

“It’s always better to fix these valves, patients live, do better, they live longer and it’s always better to fix what God gave you rather than give you a pig one or a cow one,” he said.

The heart is a complex organ with many functions and components, which require highly trained professionals to fix any problems that arise.

“The heart is a pump that pumps the blood to the rest of the body,” Ramlawi said, adding that there are two major aspects to heart surgery.

“The heart has coronary arteries on the surface, which tend to block. So if someone has a heart attack, it’s because usually there’s one of those blockages that has happened,” he said.

In addition to arteries, valves are a major part of what allows the heart to do its job. He said surgeons are often able to repair or replace the valves.

There are four chambers to the heart and four valves, and “the valves can break down as we get older,” he said, “You want the valve to open and close with every heartbeat. In every minute, every valve is opening and closing 80 times, give or take 20 beats a minute.”

Surgeons must go through years of training and experience to develop the skills necessary to complete these operations. Ramlawi previously worked at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center where he served as an attending surgeon and also directed the aortic program and assisted with thoracic surgery education at the center and at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

He completed his medical education at McMaster University in Ontario, followed by a cardiac surgery residency at the University of Western Ontario. He also completed an advanced clinical fellowship in heart failure and minimally invasive valve surgery at Columbia University and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, where he earned a master of medical science degree.

He has also received awards from the American Heart Association, the American Federation for Medical Research and the Royal College of Physician’s & Surgeons of Canada.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com