Symposium Provides In-Depth Look at Mechanical Circulatory Support

STS News, Fall 2012 -- On September 7–8, the Society hosted the Advanced Technologies for Heart and Lung Support symposium, which offered insights into the dynamic field of mechanical circulatory support (MCS).

“A growing number of patients need advanced MCS therapies,” said course co-director Francis D. Pagani, MD, Chair of the STS Workforce on Surgical Treatment of End-Stage Cardiopulmonary Disease. “The field is becoming more and more complex, and it’s important for surgeons and other medical professionals to learn what is required to create an optimal team for this therapy.”

Friday, the first day of the symposium held in Chicago, featured more than a dozen guest speakers, with lectures broken up into four sessions. The first covered the many options for MCS devices, as well as how to identify which patients are candidates for support. A panel of STS course faculty members discussed the impact of excess body fat on a patient’s outcome with ventricular assist device therapy.

The second session detailed building an MCS program: What are the regulatory requirements? What financial considerations do surgeons need to think about? And importantly, what kind of staff and facility infrastructure is required to support such a program?

Later that afternoon, the focus shifted to management of the MCS patient, both perioperatively and long-term. To finish the day, speakers provided insight into extracorporeal membrane oxygenation systems and also helped attendees understand recent changes in coding and reimbursement.

“We really addressed all the important aspects of this therapy from beginning to end,” said course co-director Margarita T. Camacho, MD. “The VAD/ECMO world is so different now from even five years ago, and it was great to see what’s on the horizon.”

After Friday’s lectures, Saturday gave attendees the opportunity to dig in and get their hands dirty. Six separate device stations were featured, including wet labs to implant VADs into pig hearts and to view mock flow loops. “It’s one thing to sit in an audience and look at slides of devices, but it really hits home when you’re in a lab holding them. You get a better appreciation of how they work and what the potential pitfalls are,” Dr. Camacho said. “For surgeons, the device stations make us feel like kids in a candy store.”

It was a full house for the duration of the program, and course organizers noted that many of the attendees were still early in their careers. “Because of the enormous impact this field has had, it’s generated a ton of interest from younger surgeons,” Dr. Pagani said.

STS hosts a number of educational events throughout the year, providing cardiothoracic surgeons with the opportunity to delve deeply into specific areas of interest. For a list of upcoming events, visit