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Heart-smart surgery. A new, minimally-invasive heart surgery procedure has been shown to lower the incidence of certain common post-operative complications, as well as lessen a patient's hospital stay. Dr. Richard Shemin, professor and chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Boston Medical Center, presented the study's results to the American College of Cardiology on March 10.

Open-heart surgery, which necessitates splitting apart the sternum, is a major traumatic event to the body. "Most people don't realize how much of the body is attached to the sternum and is affected by open-heart surgery," says physician assistant Robin Chartrand of the BMC cardiology unit. Infections and complications become more likely, and a long recuperation is involved with open-chest procedures, she explains. It's also a very expensive procedure.

For the past year, the BMC cardiology team has done heart surgery using "Port-Access" technology. In this procedure, only a four-inch opening is made on the side of the chest between the patient's ribs. Doctors then use venous and arterial catheters, balloon catheters, and cannulae (small tubes) to perform the surgeries. Chartrand says Port-Access procedures now account for about 20 percent of their heart surgeries. As more surgeons become trained in the procedure, she expects that number to rise.

"Our results demonstrate that Port-Access coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) can be performed safely with clinical outcomes similar to or better than those associated with standard open-chest CABG," Shemin says.

Port-Access technology is also being used to perform minimally invasive heart valve replacement and repair procedures and congenital heart defect repair operations. Funding for the study is provided by Heartport, Inc.

Taking a RISP. Sargent College's Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation has received a five-year, $ 2.1 million Research Infrastructure Support Program (RISP) grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The RISP will expand the center's research capabilities with the aim of increasing its scientific contributions related to the health and rehabilitation needs of persons with serious psychiatric disabilities.

Founded in 1979 and the first of its kind, the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation helps people with psychiatric disabilities recover functionality, consults with mental health and rehabilitation agencies and centers around the world, conducts research, and trains practitioners in psychiatric rehabilitation. "People with affective and/or thought disorders can learn to integrate their disabilities into their lives, so that that illness doesn't control their entire being," explains the executive director, SAR Professor William Anthony.

"This grant will allow us to conduct more rigorous scientific research and move into a new phase of the center's development," says Anthony. The three main components of the grant include establishing a research and statistical unit, creating opportunities for faculty development, and pilot study projects.

SAR Director of Research Sally Rogers says that the RISP will also help strengthen the center's capacity for data management and analysis. CAS Professor of Mathematics Ralph D'Agostino and School of Public Health Research Associate Joseph Massaro will contribute their statistical expertise to the unit, training faculty to suggest, understand, and interpret statistical analyses for pilot studies and other studies.

Another goal of the RISP is to mentor senior and junior research faculty through an intensive training program necessary to conduct advanced scientific research. SAR Research Associate Professor Marianne Farkas says the training program will include monthly seminars, pilot study apprenticeships, mentored research experiences for junior faculty members, coursework, and individual training.

In addition to faculty and staff from around the University, other schools and rehabilitation programs from across the country will collaborate on five pilot studies, the focus of which will be determined in the future.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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