Archives     Advertise     Editorial Calendar     Subscribe     Contact Us    


A Nashville Transplant Story


 

Babu Helps Rebuild Saint Thomas Heart Transplant Program

A love of tinkering can set a curious mind on an unexpected path. Such was the case for Ashok Babu, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon and surgical director of the Saint Thomas Health heart transplant program. In 2016, the Illinois native arrived in Nashville to re-launch the hospital's transplant program, now 42 hearts strong.


A Mechanical Mind

"I had an engineering mind and was always interested in taking things apart and fixing them," Babu said. "When I got old enough, I really enjoyed working on cars and would fix the family car ... sometimes with disastrous consequences. I really learned a lot from doing that."

While Babu went on to major in engineering at Chicago's Northwestern University, medicine was in the back of his mind thanks in part to his physician uncle. "I liked the idea of medicine and working with patients and their families, and I had a lot of interest in medical devices," he said. "Cardiac surgery interested me early on, and I had a combined interest in heart and lungs which really aren't dissimilar from car engines. The heart and lungs are mechanical in many ways, and that appealed to me."


From Colorado to Nashville

In 2002, Babu received his medical degree from Northwestern University and went on to complete general and cardiothoracic surgery residencies at the University of Colorado in Denver. He remained on staff at the University of Colorado Hospital, specializing in adult cardiac surgery, mechanical circulatory support, and heart transplantation.

An encounter with a Saint Thomas surgeon at a national conference peaked Babu's interest in the health system's once thriving heart transplant program, now in need of a reboot. Saint Thomas West Hospital, a pioneering site for heart transplantation in Tennessee, closed its program at the end of 2011 but was looking to re-launch the specialty.

"I was really impressed with the excellent surgeons and people I'd be working with and was enticed by the opportunity to restart a program and mold it in a way that's best for the patient," Babu said. "The whole team - from the nurses to the OR staff - were just great people, and we liked Nashville."

Upon arrival, Babu worked alongside cardiac surgeon David Glassford, MD, who performed the state's first heart transplant at Saint Thomas Hospital in 1985. Eighteen months later, the program is in full swing with Babu at the helm.

"This is a team effort; it's not just one surgeon or cardiologist," Babu said. "Patients are treated by a surgeon and one of our five heart failure cardiologists who can determine when it's time for more advanced therapies."


More Options for Heart Failure

While heart transplant is the ultimate treatment for end stage heart failure, advances in short- and long-term support devices like ECMO are offering more hope to patients who previously had little. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation drains the blood from the vein, adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide while warming the blood and pumping it through the body. This method allows the blood to "bypass" the heart and lungs, encouraging them to rest and heal.

"The ECMO is a miniature heart-lung machine and can support the body till the heart gets better or we can fix it," said Babu, noting that most patients use the ECMO between 10-14 days.

Another option - the left ventricular assist device, or LVAD - is a mechanical pump implanted inside a person's chest to help a weakened heart pump blood. Babu said many elderly patients with end stage heart failure who are not candidates for heart transplant could now live for years with good quality of life thanks to advances in LVAD technology.

Not surprisingly, technological breakthroughs have also created a shift in allocation of donor hearts. "The current paradigm for many patients is they get an LVAD, go home and come back for a heart," Babu said. "Now heart allocation guidelines are being revised to favor hospitalized patients who may need LVAD, but we want to try to get them the heart instead."


The Future of Cardiac Care

Babu looks forward to growing Saint Thomas's mechanical support programs through ECMO, temporary and durable LVAD, and total artificial heart (TAH), reserved for patients with both right and left failed ventricles who are not candidates for LVAD.

"There's never been a great device for this population, who may end up on ECMO with no other hope besides heart transplant," Babu said of the SynCardia TAH, which will be available at Saint Thomas Heart later in 2018.

"We want to make the community aware of these devices because you can go to small hospitals around the region and people may not know they exist," he said. "Our job is to educate other physicians and nurses about these technologies so they can educate their patients and refer them to us in a timely manner. We have a full heart failure program and provide every therapy available to this challenging population."

WEB:

Saint Thomas Heart

Dr. Babu

 
Share:

Related Articles:


Recent Articles

Cancer Care on the Cutting Edge

Nashville physician-scientists are helping lead the way in advancing cancer care.

Read More

The Evolution of Senior Living

The senior living industry is undergoing a makeover as baby boomers shift focus from medical-directed care to hospitality-driven services.

Read More

When Basic Science Becomes a Breakthrough

Noted immunologists joined forces at the recent International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference to discuss the importance of fostering and funding basic science.

Read More

Dr. Meredith McKean Brings New Hope, More Options for Melanoma Patients

Oncologist Meredith McKean, MD, MPH, overseeing Sarah Cannon's Melanoma Research Program

Read More

ONcology Rounds

News of note in cancer research, treatment and partnerships.

Read More

Ascension Saint Thomas Opens Cancer Center

Ascension Saint Thomas recently celebrated the grand opening of their comprehensive new cancer center on the Midtown campus.

Read More

NMGMA 10 Minute Takeaway

Medicare Part B representative from Palmetto GBA offered updates and resources to navigate compliance.

Read More

Improving Quality, Lowering Cost of Care for Seniors

Five years into the Medicare Shared Savings Program, more and more ACOs are beginning to demonstrate the ability to improve quality while lowering costs.

Read More

Planning Ahead: Patients & Power of Attorney

The time to think about a durable power of attorney is long before it's needed. Barbara Moss discusses the importance of the document in healthcare.

Read More

Council on Aging Honors Middle Tennesseans

The Council on Aging (COA) of Middle Tennessee hosted their 27th Annual Sage Awards on Oct. 29. With a belief that aging should be celebrated and embraced and that older adults have a lifetime of wisdom and experience to offer communities, the Sage Awards are presented each year to older adults who have made outstanding contributions to Middle Tennessee.

Read More

Email Print
 
 

 

 


Tags:
Ashok Babu, ECMO, Heart Transplant Nashville, LVAD, Physician Spotlight, Saint Thomas Health, Saint Thomas West Hospital, SynCardia TAH
Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: