Dr. Joseph Lamelas is Chief of Cardiac Surgery at UHealth, the University of Miami Health System. For more information on a minimally invasive approach to cardiac surgery or to make an appointment, call 305-689-2784.
Lou Paolino was fit and feeling well when his doctor suggested he see a cardiac specialist for a heart murmur. To Lou’s surprise, the cardiologist diagnosed him with a life-threatening condition called aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve that slows blood flow to the heart.
Lou needed treatment as soon as possible, but he feared open heart surgery would compromise his active lifestyle. “I knew at my age if I had that operation and they split my chest, I wouldn’t recover to my current level of fitness,” he says.
His search for a doctor who would repair his aorta without traditional surgery led him to Dr. Joseph Lamelas, who is now the chief of cardiac surgery at UHealth, the University of Miami Health System, and a pioneer of minimally invasive cardiac surgery. Each day, Dr. Lamelas performs up to five of these procedures.
“I’ve performed over 16,000 cardiac surgical procedures and 7,000 of those have been minimally invasive operations,” says Dr. Lamelas.
Over his 30-year career, Dr. Lamelas developed and mastered a technique he calls the “Miami Method” as an alternative to open heart surgery, which historically is done by opening the entire chest cavity. With a minimally invasive approach, Dr. Lamelas uses five millimeter incision near the ribs to access and perform a range of procedures including repair of the mitral valve, removal of tumors, and the treatment of congenital heart defects.
Dr. Lamelas also uses the Miami Method technique to repair or replace the ascending aorta, a unique procedure that sets him apart in the field. “It's a different skill set and it's one in which you have to be much more meticulous and there's no room for error,” says Dr. Lamelas. “Many surgeons from around the country say it's not possible to do. But I always invite them to come to my operating room so they can see the way that this operation is done.”
One of the most significant benefits of a minimally invasive approach in cardiac surgery is a faster recovery time. “Most of these patients are back to normal lifestyle within two weeks which is pretty incredible at all ages, not just young but even the older patients as well,” says Dr. Lamelas. Other benefits include less physical pain and trauma, less blood loss, reduced risk of infection, shorter hospital stays, and better long-term outcomes than more traditional cardiac surgical procedures.
Today, Lou’s workout schedule is more rigorous than ever. He boxes twice a week in addition to running and weight training, all without worrying about the health of his heart. “The operation was a complete success and in no time at all I was pretty active again, says Lou. “The recovery was phenomenal.”
Dr. Lamelas has trained more than 1,000 cardiac surgeons from around the world in his minimally invasive approach and he is well-positioned to continue to build his legacy at University of Miami Health System. “At an academic medical center, there’s a combination of innovation and clinical excellence that translates into better patient care and better patient outcomes,” he says. “This is where I believe we will have the greatest impact on cardiac surgery for many generations to come.”
FOCUSING ON YOU
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