MLB Legend, Scripps Patient Rod Carew Announces Heart Recovery Milestone

Scripps marks 1-year anniversary of Prebys Cardiovascular Institute


Scripps Health today celebrated the first anniversary of the opening of Prebys Cardiovascular Institute by honoring one of the hospital’s best known patients, Baseball Hall of Fame member Rod Carew, who announced a major milestone at six months following an innovative surgery to save him from dying from advanced heart failure.

Carew, who was diagnosed with heart failure after suffering a massive heart attack in October and subsequently undergoing implantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) at the institute, said during a morning press conference at the hospital that he is now being evaluated for a heart transplant.

“Today, we celebrate the more than 6,200 patients who have benefited over the past year from receiving the best heart care available at Prebys Cardiovascular Institute,” said Scripps President and CEO Chris Van Gorder. “By designing this institute around our patients and their needs, and creating an environment for top physicians and scientists to collaborate, we created a new paradigm in health care and the most advanced center for heart care on the West Coast.”

On March 8, 2015, Scripps admitted its first patient to the $456 million, 383,000-square-foot tower of glass, brick and steel. The uniquely designed facility houses 108 private patient rooms, 59 intensive care beds, four cardiovascular operating rooms, two specialized hybrid operating rooms and three advanced technology catheterization labs. The institute also includes seven adjacent electrophysiology labs.

First year statistics

In its first 12 months of operation, 6,222 patients were treated and discharged from the institute. Procedures included:

  • 1,248 percutaneous coronary interventions (including angioplasty and stent placement)
  • 1,033 cardiac ablations
  • 380 pacemaker implants
  • 282 cardioverter-defibrillator implants
  • 271 coronary artery bypass surgeries
  • 255 open heart valve replacements
  • 144 cardioversions
  • 76 transcatheter aortic valve replacements

“At Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, we have created a hub for innovation and clinical excellence that delivers safer procedures, shorter stays, faster recovery and better outcomes,” said cardiologist Paul Teirstein, MD, the institute’s medical director.

Carew, 70, who lives in Orange County, suffered a massive heart attack in late September while playing golf and received three stents to his left anterior descending coronary artery.

Once home after the heart attack, Carew continued to struggle to breath and gained 30 pounds of fluid weight because his heart function was severely depressed. A few weeks later, he was referred to the Scripps Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory Support team and admitted to Scripps Green Hospital in La Jolla for significant heart failure.

LVAD saved Carew's life

After assessing Carew, the team of physicians and surgeons determined that he was too critical for urgent heart transplant evaluation. The team recommended transfer to the nearby Prebys Cardiovascular Institute on the campus of Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla for implantation of a LVAD, a battery-powered pump that is placed in the heart during surgery to help the heart pump blood. The device is connected to a light-weight battery pack that the patient usually wears in a vest.

For some patients, the LVAD serves as a bridge to heart transplantation, keeping them alive and returning them to an optimal state of health while waiting for a new organ. For other patients, the LVAD becomes a permanent addition that assists their heart function for the rest of their lives.

“LVADs can mean the difference between life and death for the failing heart,” said J. Thomas Heywood, MD, one of Carew’s Scripps Clinic cardiologists and director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program.

“There have been drastic improvements in LVAD technology in the past decade, and there is definitive evidence demonstrating that patients with advanced heart failure live longer with a LVAD compared to standard medical therapy,” said Ajay Srivastava, MD, another Scripps Clinic heart failure cardiologist who has cared for Carew. “Now, patients can live permanently with an LVAD if necessary.”

The Scripps LVAD program has earned the highest accreditation from The Joint Commission with the Gold Seal of Approval and Advanced Certification.

Carew’s LVAD was installed on Oct. 7 during a six-hour open heart surgery at Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, which was led by Scripps cardiothoracic surgeons Sam Baradarian, MD, and Dan Meyer, M.D.

When Carew was discharged from the institute, he was weak but determined to regain his health in part to spread the word about heart disease. On Nov. 5, Carew showed he still possessed the mettle of an 18-time Major League Baseball All Star when he was discharged from the Inpatient Rehabilitation Program at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas more quickly than any other previous LVAD patient. He later received services from Scripps Home Health Care.

“I am grateful to be here today, living back home with my family, doing many of the things that make life special and preparing to join the heart transplant list, all thanks to the tremendous care I received at Scripps,” Carew said. “My second chance at life is a testament to the cutting-edge treatment and the genuine care for me and my family provided by the surgeons, my cardiologists and all the staff at Prebys Cardiovascular Institute and Scripps Encinitas.”

The institute builds on a legacy of breakthroughs by Scripps in pioneering surgical procedures, landmark studies, genomic medicine and wireless technology to provide the most advanced treatment options available to patients with cardiovascular diseases. It is the cornerstone of a 25-year master plan that is transforming the Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla campus.

New clinic, trauma center opening soon

In June, Scripps will open the Scripps Clinic John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion, a $130 million multispecialty medical building constructed adjacent to the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute. The clinic will houses four additional cardiac catheterization labs, making it one of only two clinics licensed by the state of California to operate this kind of facility. And in August, Scripps plans to open the new Barbey Family Emergency and Trauma Center in the ground floor of Prebys Cardiovascular Institute.

Each year, more than 76,000 patients receive their cardiovascular care from Scripps, making it California’s largest heart care provider. With 166 cardiovascular specialists, Scripps performs more heart procedures than any other heart care program in the state. For more than 30 years, Kaiser Permanente cardiologists have partnered with Scripps cardiovascular surgeons to care for Kaiser Permanente heart patients. This collaboration has contributed to the program’s high-quality care, superior patient outcomes and national recognition.

Scripps is the only heart care provider in the region consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the country. In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked Scripps 19 in the nation, the highest rated program in San Diego County.

Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.

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Keith Darce

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