Pioneering Heart Surgeon: Reza Khalafi, MD

FEBRUARY 1, 2014

Coronary bypass surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the United States, with more than 500,000 procedures each year. Coronary heart disease patients at John Peter Smith (JPS) Hospital in Fort Worth are fortunate to have access to one of the most experienced and respected cardiac surgeons anywhere – Reza Khalafi, MD. Dr. Khalafi, a Texas Health Care member and the Chair of cardiothoracic surgery at JPS, is a recognized pioneer in the field of minimally invasive cardiac surgery.

Coronary bypass surgery is performed when a patient has significant blockage in the vessels that supply blood to the heart. If left untreated and the vessel becomes completely blocked, a heart attack will likely result. In coronary bypass surgery, the surgeon takes a small portion of a blood vessel from another part of the body, such as a vein in the leg, and attaches it to the heart in order to bypass the damaged or blocked blood vessel, allowing blood to flow freely to the heart.

Coronary bypass surgery has traditionally been conducted utilizing cardiopulmonary bypass – that is, performed with the use of a heart-lung machine that provides oxygen to the body so that the patient’s heart can be stopped while the surgery is performed. Dr. Khalafi performs off-pump surgery, meaning that no heart-lung machine is used and the patient’s heart continues to beat through the surgical procedure. In off-pump surgery, the surgeon uses a stabilizing device to keep still the part of the heart to which the blood vessel is being grafted.

“Off-pump surgery is a viable option for any heart patient in need of a cardiac bypass procedure,” Dr. Khalafi says, adding that the less-invasive approach provides the patient with significant health advantages. Dr. Khalafi sees a significant decrease in mortality rates and patient complications with off-pump versus cardiopulmonary bypass. Patient recovery times are also shorter in length.

Dr. Khalafi is a globally-recognized leader and pioneer in the field of off-pump surgery. Last year, he was the first recipient of Maquet Medical System’s “Beating Heart Hall of Fame” Diamond Level Award, in recognition of his having performed more than 3,000 off-pump coronary bypass surgeries. Only a few surgeons in the world have performed as many.

Because of Dr. Khalafi’s extensive experience with this important procedure, he is in demand across the globe to share his expertise. Dr. Khalafi has traveled all over the United States to train cardiac surgeons on off-pump surgery. There is a significant need for Dr. Khalafi’s experience and expertise, as it is estimated that just ten percent of all cardiac surgeons are trained on the off-pump procedure. Given the high number of coronary bypass surgeries performed, combined with the health and safety benefits of off-pump versus cardiopulmonary bypass surgery, Dr. Khalafi will no doubt continue to be in demand around the country.

However, Dr. Khalafi’s first priority remains JPS and the patients served by the public hospital. As Chair of cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. Khalafi oversaw the launch of JPS’s open-heart surgery program in late 2010. In the three years since, JPS has surpassed expectations in open-heart surgery, both in terms of patients served and dollars saved. In the first year of the program, JPS saved about $1 million by performing its own open heart surgeries instead of referring patients to other area hospitals.

Patient numbers have also been higher than predicted, with more than 500 served in the last three years. Dr. Khalafi believes there is a very good reason for these impressive numbers – the people of JPS. JPS has “excellent nurses to care for patients” and the hospital provides “excellent post-op and operative care,” he says.

Dr. Khalafi – and the experience and respect that he brings in the field of cardiac surgery – is a prime example of the benefit of the public-private partnership between JPS and Texas Health Care. Texas Health Care surgeons such as Dr. Khalafi provide cutting-edge health care to the patients of JPS, and that’s one of the reasons why JPS is the hospital of choice for many in need of expert, life-saving surgical services.