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Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

XXIX Congreso Latinoamericano de cirugia vascular y angiologia

Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia

Dr. Berrio, Vascular Surgeon, Tulua, Colombia

Dr. Jhon Jairo Berrio is  the Chief of Vascular Surgery at the Clinica San Francisco, Tulua, Colombia, which is a small community outside of Cali.  He attended medical school in Colombia, completing his general surgery residency at Hospital clinics for Carlos.  He completed additional training at New York University and he completed his vascular surgery residency in Bogota at the Hospital de Kennedy  and trained under the instruction of Dr. Albert Munoz, the current president of the Association of Latin American Vascular Surgery and Angiography (ALCVA) .  He does a range of vascular procedures such as aortic aneurysm repair, fistula creation as well as endovascular surgery but his favorite procedures are limb salvage procedures such as aorto-femoral bypass, femoral-popliteal bypass and other treatments designed to prevent amputation.

He is here in Bolivia giving a presentation on the use of Prostaglandin E1 for critical ischemia / and last chance limb salvage.

Today we are talking to Dr. Berrio about the use of prostaglandin E1 (Iloprost/ iprostadil) for peripheral vascular disease (PAD).  In the past, we have used a myriad of treatments including statins, pentoxifylline, clopidogrel and even quinine for the prevention and relief of claudication symptoms.  However, all of these previous agents are designed for early PAD and are only minimally effective at treating later stages of disease.  Treatment of severe disease (rest pain or ulceration/ ischemia wounds) has been limited to stenting (angioplasty) and surgical revascularization – but this strategy often fails for patients with microvascular disease (or disease that affects vessels that can not be operated on.)

Last effort at Limb Salvage in critical ischemia

No – Prostaglandin E is not some magic ‘panacea’ for peripheral vascular disease.  There is no such thing – but it is a medication in the treatment arsenal for vascular surgeons – and it has shown some promising results particularly in treating limb-threatening ischemia.  In fact, the data goes back over 20 years – even though most people in the United States have never heard of it.  That’s because prostaglandin E1 is more commonly used for other reasons in the USA.  It is a potent vasodilator, and in the US, this medication is often used in a different (aerosolized form) for primary pulmonary hypertension.  It is also used for erectile dysfunction.  Despite a wealth of literature supporting its use for critical ischemia it is not currently marketed for such use in the United States – and thus – must be individually compounded in a hospital pharmacy for IV use.  Supplies of this medication in this form are often limited and costly.

Intravenous Prostaglandin E1

This medication offers a desparately needed strategy for patients with critical ischemia who (for multiple reasons) may not be surgical candidates for revascularization and is a last-ditch attempt to treat ‘dry’ gangrene and prevent amputation and limb loss.  Since more than 25% of all diabetes will undergo amputation due to this condition – this is a critical development that potentially affects millions of people.  (Amputations also lead to high mortality for a variety of reasons not discussed here.)

What is Prostaglandin E1?

As mentioned above, prostaglandin E1 is a potent vasodilator – meaning it opens up blood vessels by forced the vessels to dilate.  This brings much-needed blood to ischemia tissue (areas of tissue dying due to lack of blood.)

Treatment details:

A full course of treatment is 28 days.  Patients receive 60 micrograms per day by IV.

Patients must be admitted to the hospital for observation for the first intravenous administration of prostaglandin E1.  While side effects such as allergic reactions, rash or tachycardia are rare – since this medication is given as an IV infusion, doctors will want to observe you for the first few treatments. The most common side effect is IV irritation.  If this occurs the doctors will stop the infusion and dilute it further to prevent discomfort.  Once your treatment has been established, doctors may arrange for you to have either out-patient therapy at an infusion center, or home health – where a nurse comes to your house to give you the medication.

The surgeons will evaluate your legs before, during and after treatment.  If the ischemia or rest pain are not improving, or worsen during treatment – doctors may discontinue therapy.

Prostaglandin E1 therapy is compatible with other medications for PAD such as clopidogrel, aspirin, pentoxifylline and statins, so you can continue your other medications for PAD while receiving this treatment.  However, if you are taking nitrates such as nitroglycerin, (Nitro-dur, Nitropaste) or medications for pulmonary hypertension or erectile dysfunction – please tell your surgeon.

In Colombia, the average cost of the entire course of treatment (4 weeks of daily therapy) is 12 million Colombian pesos.  At today’s exchange rate – that is  a little under $ 7000.00  (seven thousand dollars, USD).

While this is a hefty price tag – it beats amputation.  In some cases, arrangements can be made with insurance companies to cover some of the costs.  (Insurance companies know that amputation-related costs are higher over the long run, since amputation often leads to a lot of other problems due to decreased mobility).

Additional Information about Dr. Berrio:

Dr. Jhon Jairo Berrio, MD

Vascular surgeon

Calle 414 – 30

Buga, Colombia

Tele: 236 9449

Email: vascular@colombia.com

Speaks fluent English, Espanol.

References/ Additional information about peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and prostaglandin e1

Pharmacotherapy for critical limb ischemia  Journal of Vascular Surgery, Volume 31, Issue 1, Supplement 1, January 2000, Pages S197-S203

de Donato G, Gussoni G, de Donato G, Andreozzi GM, Bonizzoni E, Mazzone A, Odero A, Paroni G, Setacci C, Settembrini P, Veglia F, Martini R, Setacci F, Palombo D. (2006).  The ILAILL study: iloprost as adjuvant to surgery for acute ischemia of lower limbs: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study by the italian society for vascular and endovascular surgery.  Ann Surg. 2006 Aug;244(2):185-93.  An excellent read – even for novices.

S Duthois, N Cailleux, B Benosman, H Lévesque (2003).   Tolerance of Iloprost and results of treatment of chronic severe lower limb ischaemia in diabetic patients. A retrospective study of 64 consecutive cases .  Diabetes & MetabolismVolume 29, Issue 1February 2003Pages 36-43

Katziioannou A, Dalakidis A, Katsenis K, Koutoulidis V, Mourikis D. (2012).  Intra-arterial prostaglandin e(1) infusion in patients with rest pain: short-term results.  Scientific World Journal. 2012;2012:803678. Epub 2012 Mar 12.e Note extremely small study size (ten patients).

Strecker EP, Ostheim-Dzerowycz W, Boos IB. (1998).  Intraarterial infusion therapy via a subcutaneous port for limb-threatening ischemia: a pilot study.  Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. 1998 Mar-Apr;21(2):109-15.

Ruffolo AJ, Romano M, Ciapponi A. (2010).  Prostanoids for critical limb ischaemia.  Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Jan 20;(1):CD006544.

Volteas N, Leon M, Labropoulos N, Christopoulos D, Boxer D, Nicolaides A. (1993).  The effect of iloprost in patients with rest pain.  Eur J Vasc Surg. 1993 Nov;7(6):654-8.

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As part of our continuing discussions on Valvular disease, we are talking to Dr. Didier Lapeyre, a French cardiothoracic surgeon who currently resides in Switzerland.

if you look close you can see the valve leaflets

Talking with Dr. Didier Lapeyre, MD

I spent the morning talking to Dr. Didier Lapeyre, a cardiothoracic surgeon (via Skype). It was a fascinating discussion, and opportunity to ‘pick the brain’ of one of cardiac surgery’s elite surgeons and researchers. As we’ve mentioned before, Dr. Lapeyre is the ‘Father of the modern valve” and a true innovator in the field. His developments in artificial heart technology, mechanical valves and assistive devices have changed the field of cardiac surgery immeasurably, and have saved countless lives around the globe, so it was a pleasure and an honor to speak with him.  Since he is such an accomplished surgeon, and has such a wealth of knowledge, we had a lot of talk about.  It’s also too much to talk about in just one post, so I will be breaking into a couple of different discussions since it is such a great opportunity to bring to his many years of knowledge and experience to my readers here – which in itself, is a daunting but certainly worthwhile task. (It’s not everyday that I get to speak with one of the pioneers of the field).

I. Introduction to Dr. Didier Lapeyre

II. The Lapeyre devices and contributions to cardiac surgery

III. Current issues in cardiac valve replacement

IV. The future of valve replacement

But first, an introduction: Dr. Didier Lapeyre, MD, Cardiothoracic surgeon

Dr. Didier has spent the majority of his fifty + years in the field researching and developing valve technology and he is arguably, the expert in this field.  He has developed several heart valves and in addition to the current valve he is developing, holds five patents for these devices.  He also has four other patented artificial heart designs.  He is the Director and CEO of Lapeyre Medical LLC, and the former president and director of medical affairs for Triflo Medical Incorporated[1].

Learned from the best

After graduating from medical school at Claude Bernard University, Alexis Carrel Medical School in Lyon, France in 1957, he completed his general surgical residency at Claude Bernard University before becoming the chief resident in the cardiothoracic surgery program under Dr. Pierre Marion, one of the French pioneers in cardiac surgery in 1967.

Dr. Lapeyre then traveled to Rome, Italy and joined the department of surgery at the School of Medicine where he designed and developed a ventricular assist device for use in cardiovascular research.  He then returned to France in 1972 to work with Dr. Alain Carpenter, who is known as the father of mitral valve repair[2].  During the ten years he worked with Dr. Carpentier, Dr. Lapeyre helped to develop the first totally artificial heart.

Dr. Didier Lapeyre then headed the Aerospatial Total Artificial Heart Program, while he served as an assistance professor at the illustrious Texas Heart Institute.  While serving as a designer and medical officer at the Aerospatial program, he submitted four patents for his developments.

In 1987, he went on to work at another heart valve program, the Dassault – Aviation Heart Valve Program, which was affiliated with Texas Heart Institute.  While this seems like an unlikely partnership between heart surgery and aviation, during this period, Dr. Lapeyre submitted four patent applications for mechanical valves.

In 1996, he became president of Triflo Medical before establishing his own company in 2002, which is dedicated to the design, development and innovation of prosthetic heart valves.  He is currently working on a new artificial valve that addresses the current problems in existing technologies by eliminating the need for anti-coagulation.


[1] Dr. Lapeyre was previously involved in a legal action with this corporation in the ninth circuit court of the United States (central California).  Dr. Lapeyre ultimately won a multi-million dollar countersuit in this action.

[2] In 2005, Dr. Carpentier received the prestigious Medallion of Scientific Achievement from the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS).  It was only the fifth time such an honor was bestowed, and the first time it was awarded to someone outside the United States.  (Other notable recipients include the mega-giants of cardiac surgery, Michael E. Debakey and rival, Denton Cooley.)

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Dr. Enrique Davalos Ruiz, Neurosurgeon

Spent the morning in the operating room with Dr. Davalos.  As we discussed in a previous post, Dr. Davalos is one of just a few neurosurgeons here in Mexico to specialize in both adult and pediatric neurosurgery procedures.  He performs a wide range of procedures such surgery for cerebral tumors, spinal bifida, hydrocephalus, trauma, spinal surgery and epilepsy.  But one of the procedures he is best-known for here in Mexicali is the surgical repair of craniosynostosis.  However, if you’ve ever watched this intricate procedure – ‘repair’ really isn’t the word that comes to mind to describe the procedure.  ‘Rebuild’ is much more appropriate.

Craniosynostosis is a congenital cranial deformity caused by the premature fusion of the cranial sutures.  (These sutures allow for the babies head to be slightly compressed during natural childbirth).  Many new moms can attest that their neonate’s head was temporarily ‘squashed’ looking at birth, but normalize over the first few days as the bones relax into their natural position.  In normal development, these sutures (or ridges where the bones come together) are not yet fused  – and fuse over the first few months of life.

When the bones that comprise the skull fuse early, it can result in a significant cranial abnormality.  (Luckily, in most cases of [primary] craniosynostosis – the patient’s brain functions normally despite this.)

To treat this surgically, Dr. Davalos had to essentially rebuild part of the skull (the coronal sections of the parietal and frontal bones).   He did this by removing and reshaping the skull in separate sections and then rejoining the pieces to conform to a more natural shape.  (As a someone who sews, it reminded me of lacing a corset to get curved shaping).   In a child of this age – the bones should fuse/ heal within approximately six weeks – with no long term limitations for activities.

Sterility was maintained during the case, and everything proceeded in a rapid and appropriate fashion.  Anesthesia was proficient during the case, with excellent hemodynamic stability and oxygenation.

Dr. Davalos beveling a portion of the skull

Dr. Enrique Davalos Ruiz, MD

Pediatric and Adult Neurosurgery specialist

Calle B No 248

entre Av. Reforma and Obregon

Zona Centro

Mexicali, B. C.

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Interesting day today – as I travelled across a wide range of specialties in just a few short blocks.  I started out this afternoon in thoracic surgery with the good doc seeing patients in clinic, then off to IMSS to watch a Whipple procedure (pancreatoduodenectomy) with Dr. Gabriel Ramos.   (The Whipple procedure would be the ‘open heart’ surgery of the general/ oncology surgery specialty – it’s a complex, complicated and involved procedure – so, naturally, I loved every minute of it!)

Dr. Gabriel Ramos & Dr. Maria Rivera

Some of you will recognize the absolutely delightful Dr. Maria Rivera from one of our pictures last week (on facebook) – in which she was an absolute stunner.

Not an everyday photo – but then that case was pretty breathtaking too – (when I finish writing about it, I will post a link.)

Dr. Elias Garcia Flores, who I met briefly last week was there too.. (Of course, I didn’t recognize him since he had a mask on this time.)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay because I had a previous appointment to interview Dr. Enrique Davalos Ruiz, a local neurosurgeon.  He turned out to very charming and interesting..

He’s the only neurosurgeon specializing in pediatric and adult neurosurgeon for all of Baja California and Sonora.  (I’ll write more about him soon – I am hoping to head to the operating room with him next week.) He’s pretty busy working at IMSS and Hospital General de Mexicali, in addition to private practice but he didn’t seem to mind taking time to talk to me.

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This post is a little overdue since I was out of town for a few days.. I missed the 115 degree temps and I missed Mexicali too..

Dr. Juzaino (left) and Dr. Rivera

Usually, I go to surgery after I’ve spoken to the surgeon, and talked to them for a while but in this case – I had heard of Dr. Juzaino (after all – he practices at Hospital General de Mexicali) but couldn’t find a way to contact him – he’s not in the yellow pages, and no one seemed to have his number..

So I just hung out and waited for him when I saw his name on the surgery schedule. He was supernice, and invited me to stay and watch his femoral – popliteal bypass surgery.  Case went beautifully – leg fully revascularized at the end of the case.   Patient was awake during the case but appeared very comfortable.

intern during surgery

There was a beautiful intern in the surgery – her face was just luminous so I couldn’t resist taking a picture.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get her name, and no one recognizes her because of the mask – so I am hoping some one from the OR recognizes her here.. I’d like to send her a copy of the picture.. (and get permission to post it..)

Saw Lupita Dominguez – who in the role of nursing instructor that day.  She is always so delightful – I need to get a picture of her with out the mask so all of you can see her -besides being an outstanding nurse, and nursing instructor,  she is just the friendliest, sweetest person with cute freckles to boot.. (I am very envious of people with freckles..)

On another note entirely, here’s some more information about the ethical implications of transplant tourism for my interested readers as follow up to my Examiner.com article.  It’s a video of lectures by one of the leading ethicists and transplant surgeons, Dr. Delmonico.. (yes, like the steak.)

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Busy day yesterday – spent the morning shift with Jose Luis Barron over at Mexicali General..  Then raced over to Hospital de la Familia for a couple of general and bariatric cases.

The first case was with the ever charming Drs. Horatio Ham, and Rafael Abril (who we’ve talked about before.)  with the always competent Dr. Campa as the anesthesiologist.   (Seriously – Dr. Campa always does an excellent job.)

Then as we prepared to enter the second case – the director of the hospital asked if I would like to meet Dr. Marco Sarinana G. and his partner, Dr. Joel Ramos..  well, of course.. (Dr. Sarinana’s name has a tilde over the first n – but try coaxing that out this antique keyboard..)

So off to the operating room with these three fellows.  (This isn’t my usual protocol for interviewing surgeons, etc. but sometimes it works out this way.)  Their practice is called Mexicali Obesity Solutions.

Dr. Marco Sarinana and Dr. Joel Ramos, Bariatric surgeons

Dr. Alejandro Ballesteros was the anesthesiologist for the case – and everything proceeded nicely.

After that – it was evening, and time to write everything down!

Today should be another great day – heading to IMSS with Dr. Gabriel Ramos for a big case..

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Dr. Gabriel Ramos, Oncologic Surgeon

Been a busy week  – (Yea!) but now that it is the weekend, I have a chance to post some more pictures and talk about my day in the operating room with Dr. Gabriel Omar Ramos Orozco. 

Despite living in a neighboring apartment, interviewing Dr. Ramos proved to be more difficult than anticipated.  But after several weeks, I was able to catch up with the busy surgeon.

Outside of the operating room, he is a brash, young surgeon with an off-beat charm and quirky sense of humor.  But inside the operating room, as he removes a large tumor with several cancerous implants, Dr. Gabriel Ramos Orozco is all business.

It’s different for me, as the interviewer to have this perspective.  As much as I enjoy him as a friendly neighbor – it’s the serious surgeon that I prefer.  It’s a side of him that is unexpected, and what finally wins me over.

Originally from San Luis Rio Colorado in the neighboring state of Sonora, Dr. Ramos now calls Mexicali home.  Like most surgeons here, he has a staff position at a public hospital separate from his private practice.  It is here at IMSS (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) where Dr. Ramos operates on several patients during part of the extended interview.

Operating room nurses at IMSS

During the cases, the patients received a combination of epidural analgesia and conscious sedation.  While the anesthesiologist was not particularly involved or attentive to the patients during the cases, there was no intra-operative hypotension/ alterations in hemodynamic status or prolonged hypoxia.

Dr. Ramos reviewed patient films and medical charts prior to the procedures.  Patients were prepped, positioned and draped appropriately.  Surgical sterility was maintained during the cases.  The first case is a fairly straight forward laparoscopic case – and everything proceeds rapidly, in an uncomplicated fashion.  45 minutes later, and the procedure is over – and Dr. Ramos is typing his operative note.

Dr. Gabriel Ramos in the operating room

But the second case is not – and Dr. Ramos knows it going in..

The case is an extensive tumor resection, where Dr. Ramos painstakingly removes several areas of implants (or tumor tissue that has spread throughout the abdomen, separate from the original tumor).

The difference between being able to surgical remove all of the sites and being unable to remove all of the gross disease is the difference between a possible surgical ‘cure’ and a ‘de-bulking’ procedure, Dr. Ramos explains.  As always, when entering these surgeries, Dr. Ramos and his team do everything possible to go for surgical eradication of disease.  The patient will still need adjunctive therapy (chemotherapy) to treat any microscopic cancer cells, but the prognosis is better than in cases where gross disease is left behind*.  During this surgery, after extended exploration – it looks like Dr. Ramos was able to get everything.

“It’s not pretty,” he admits, “but in these types of cases, aesthetics are the last priority,” [behind removing all the tumor].  Despite that – the aesthetics after this large surgery are not as worrisome as one might have imagined.

The patient will have a large abdominal scar – but nothing that differs from most surgical scars in the pre-laparoscopy era.  [I admit I may be jaded in this respect after seeing so many surgeries] – It is several inches long, but there are no obvious defects, the scar is straight and neatly aligned at the conclusion of the case – and the umbilicus “belly-button” was spared.

after the successful removal of a large tumor

As I walk out of the hospital into the 95 degree heat at 11 o’clock at night – I admit surprise and revise my opinion of Dr. Ramos – he is better than I expected, (he is more than just the kid next door), and he deserves credit for such.

*This may happen due to the location of metastatic lesions – not all lesions are surgically removable.  (Tumor tissue may attach to major blood vessels such as the abdominal aorta, or other tissue that cannot be removed without seriously compromising the patient.)  In those cases, surgeons try to remove as much disease as possible – called ‘de-bulking’ knowing that they will have to leave tumor behind.

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