University of Florida to Launch Cardiac Surgery Program


With help from a renowned Japanese heart surgeon, the program will teach veterinary health professionals the complex mitral valve repair procedure.

The University of Florida (UF) College of Veterinary Medicine is preparing to launch the first canine open heart surgery program in the United States in collaboration with Masami Uechi, DVM, PhD, DAiCVIM (Cardiology), of the JASMINE Veterinary Cardiovascular Medical Center in Yokohama, Japan. It will be the only such program in the country to offer training in mitral valve repair surgery.

Mitral valve repair surgery is commonly reserved for dogs with degenerative mitral valve disease, or endocardiosis, which thickens and weakens the heart valves. Although the disease is found most commonly in cavalier King Charles spaniels, dachshunds, Malteses, poodles, and Chihuahuas, any dog can develop it. Older dogs develop the disease more readily than do younger ones.

Dr. Uechi, who performs mitral valve repair surgery regularly with a success rate of over 90%, will train UF cardiologists, surgeons, anesthesiologists, perfusionists, critical care specialists, and other key staff.

Simon Swift, DVM, clinical associate professor and chief of the cardiology service at UF’s Small Animal Hospital, said Dr. Uechi and his team will visit in the spring to operate on the initial dog and will return 2 months later to take on 4 more cases. Thereafter, Dr. Uechi will operate on 6 dogs every 2 months. Eventually, the program will be run without Dr. Uechi’s help.

“We currently have three clients of the UF Small Animal Hospital that have gone to France to have the surgery, and we are sending a further two to Japan,” Dr. Swift said. The first patient to receive the procedure at UF will be selected based on need and severity of illness. Patients will be considered only if deemed qualified after a referral from a veterinarian.

Although Dr. Uechi has performed the surgery at several US universities in recent years, the UF program represents the first time that he and his team have made a formal agreement to return consistently to teach US animal health care practitioners.

“We want to give the maximum effort to save many dogs with mitral regurgitation, working with the UF team,” Dr. Uechi said. “I am very excited to develop innovative medical and surgical treatments through academic exchanges between UF, JASMINE, and Azabu University.”

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