More than 40% of adult deaths in Saudi Arabia stem from cardiovascular disease, second only to cancer as a cause of mortality, according to 2020 data from the World Health Organization.

To confront this grave health crisis, we have focused on enhancing adult heart and vascular services at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) for the past six years. Our work has evolved in two phases, starting from the earliest days of the joint venture, when we worked with JHAH to create individual clinical initiatives to expand JHAH’s cardiology, vascular surgery and cardiac surgery services. All three programs made significant strides to enhance cardiovascular services at JHAH before reaching their planned conclusion in early 2018.

In this week’s blog post, we’ll highlight successes from along the first part of this journey:

Vascular Surgery

  • Our faculty performed 10 endovascular rotations and treated 45 patients successfully without complications.
  • We helped JHAH develop a noninvasive imaging laboratory and hire a registered vascular technologist as the technical director.
  • JHAH surgeons performed the health system’s first endovascular aortic aneurysm repair and first complex “chimney” endovascular aneurysm repair in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Both are advanced, minimally invasive procedures shown to reduce blood loss, operative time, hospital stay, mortality and morbidity, compared with open surgical repair.
  • JHAH created a novel, hands-on vascular surgery training program that earned certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates and recognition from the Saudi Ministry of Health and the American Board of Surgery.
  • With our support, JHAH surgeons are now practicing endovascular procedures independently, including elective, emergency and trauma care.

Cardiac Surgery

  • JHAH clinicians completed observerships at The Johns Hopkins Hospital to refresh their knowledge and observe best practices in cardiac perfusion, cardiac anesthesiology and overall cardiac surgery.
  • One of our experts in cardiothoracic surgery performed cardiac surgical procedures for eight weeks at JHAH through four scheduled clinical rotations.
  • With our assistance, JHAH re-established its adult cardiac surgery program in April 2017 and performed 300 cases by the end of 2019. Previously, JHAH would have had to send these patients to providers in Riyadh, Bahrain or outside the Middle East.
  • JHAH’s renewed ability to perform cardiac surgery locally improves the patient experience and facilitates the healing process.

Cardiology

  • We worked with JHAH to establish a highly successful cardiac rehabilitation program, one of the first in the region, with 750 patients enrolled since its launch in October 2015.
  • JHAH initiated a nurse-led, physician-supervised heart failure unit. These units help dramatically reduce readmissions of cardiac failure patients, and they support patients who live with chronic heart disease.
  • Our clinicians performed three onsite rotations to enhance electrophysiology capability at JHAH.
  • JHAH has the only hospital in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province that provides complex electrophysiology procedures to treat atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is the most common type of irregular heartbeat in the Kingdom and is associated with elevated risks of blood clots, stroke, dementia and death.

Each of the achievements above certainly stands on its own for improving patient care at JHAH. Read next week about how these efforts collectively created a strong foundation for a multidisciplinary Heart and Vascular Institute that distinguishes JHAH as the provider of choice for comprehensive cardiovascular care in Saudi Arabia and throughout the region.

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