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Research at the NIH Heart Center

The ability to translate research into direct patient care is what sets the NIH Heart Center at Suburban Hospital apart. By working with NIH and Johns Hopkins Medicine, Suburban Hospital physicians and staff not only participate in groundbreaking research, they bring those breakthroughs to the bedside quickly and seamlessly. For example, while correct diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential for the survival of heart attack patients, inexact science results in many patients being prematurely released from hospitals, only to have their heart attacks at home. Scientists involved in the NIH-Suburban Hospital Cardiac Research Initiative have been using normal volunteers and chest-pain patients from Suburban Hospital's Emergency/Trauma Center to evaluate numerous methods to diagnose heart attacks faster and more accurately.

The initial results suggest that MRI technology fulfills that objective, paving the way for faster treatment that could reduce or prevent permanent heart damage. The NIH-Suburban Hospital study lays the groundwork for what could be a dramatic change in how heart attacks are diagnosed and how rapidly patients receive treatment.

Another NIH-Suburban Hospital cardiac research initiative focuses on the role of stem cells and progenitor cells in improving blood flow to the heart muscle of patients going through Cardiac Rehabilitation after a heart attack. The premise of the research, which involves patients in Suburban Hospital's premier Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, is that individuals who have a lot of these cells will have the best response to a cardiac rehab program. If the results support the hypothesis, scientists would try to find ways to boost the activity and number of these cells, so more people could benefit from the cardiac rehabilitation process.

Research studies already underway or planned for the near future include studies of stem cell transplantation during cardiac surgery, a study on neurocognitive changes after heart surgery (in collaboration with the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke), MRI evaluation of patients with the aortic valve disease called aortic stenosis to see if they need valve replacement, and comparison of two different non-surgical procedures to correct arrhythmia in patients with atrial fibrillation. The NIH Heart Center's future research agenda also includes MRI-guided robotic heart surgery.

For more information or a referral to a cardiologist, please contact Suburban On-Call at 301-896-3939. To learn more about research studies at Suburban Hospital, please visit suburbanhospital.org/Research.