Matters of the Heart: Jignesh Patel, MD
Feb 06, 2020 Carrie St. Michel
As we approach Valentine’s day, we asked Smidt Heart Institute experts to weigh in on the biggest cardiology game-changers to date, as well as the next cardiology breakthroughs. And because nonexperts tend to associate the heart with this anatomically inaccurate emoji and all things pitter-patter—they told us their favorite love stories as well.
In medical school, Jignesh Patel, MD, PhD, was "fascinated by the heart's physiology and the fact that this muscle never stops moving," and developed a specialty in advanced heart failure. "Being able to take care of very sick patients and get them better and back to their families is extremely fulfilling," he says. His expertise extends to cardiac amyloidosis, a potentially fatal condition in which an abnormal protein collects in the heart or other organs.
Demand for heart transplants consistently outpaces supply. "About half-a-million people are diagnosed with heart failure every year, and many will need heart transplants," Patel says. In 2018, only about 3,400 donor hearts were available. "What's helping fill this void are ventricular assist devices," he says. These implanted mechanical devices keep blood pumping when a diseased heart can't—buying time for those awaiting transplants and, in some instances, restoring heart function.
Although Cedars-Sinai performs the most adult heart transplants nationwide and has a high success rate, Patel says, "We’re constantly working to improve post-transplant outcomes, particularly organ rejection." In fact, he just completed a pilot study testing the investigational use of a drug to treat certain blood disorders. "We're the first medical center worldwide to use this medication to prevent organ rejection, and we're very pleased with the results.
Favorite love story
For several years, Patel managed the care of a patient who had a heart transplant when she was young. Soon after the operation, her boyfriend proposed to her, fully aware that they would face lifelong medical challenges. For years he made taking care of her his top priority. Decades after her transplant, cancer took her life. Her husband was “a man of his word and always by her side. Seeing that was very touching," Patel says.