Geaux Hero: Director of Our Lady of the Lake’s Structural Heart Program Treats the Toughest Heart Disease Cases

Feb 21, 2024 | Team Member Spotlights

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When Jorge Castellanos, MD, started working at Our Lady of the Lake Health in 2019, its heart services looked different than they do now.

While the team of cardiologists was performing certain minimally invasive procedures that provide an alternative for heart disease patients who are at high risk of surgical complications, the options available to the Baton Rouge region weren’t as varied as they are today.

Dr. Castellanos, an interventional cardiologist, is to thank for that change, having helped build the Structural Heart Program at Our Lady of the Lake Heart & Vascular Institute.

Five years later, it’s now one of the largest programs of its kind in the region, performing more than 200 transcatheter aortic valve replacements and more than 50 transcatheter mitral valve repairs every year. It’s also involved in multiple cutting-edge clinical trials.

“The success we’ve had is pretty remarkable,” Dr. Castellanos says. “Now it’s a pretty comprehensive structural heart program.”

Structural heart disease is a relatively new subspecialty in cardiovascular disease care. It refers to abnormalities of the larger structures of the heart, including the heart walls, valves and muscles. Such diseases can include aortic valve stenosis, pulmonary vein stenosis, atrial fibrillation, valvular leaks and cardiomyopathy.

Many structural heart diseases were traditionally treated with open-heart surgery. Today, technology has allowed for less invasive strategies using catheter-based devices delivered via a peripheral vein or artery, usually via a small incision in the groin area.

These procedures put much less stress on the body and organs than open-heart surgery and result in quicker and easier recovery times for patients.

Dr. Castellanos says patients in the Baton Rouge area once had to consider traveling to Houston or further away to get such innovative procedures. “Now, they can get that here,” he says.

Part of what’s helped the Structural Heart Program grow is its focus on clinical trials, where new technologies and treatment options are tested before they are made available to the general public. Such trials offer alternatives for heart disease patients for whom traditional surgery might be too risky. 

One such option Dr. Castellanos is currently investigating is the ENCIRCLE Trial, which is testing an exciting new technology to treat patients with mitral regurgitation, a common heart valve disease where blood leaks backward because the valve doesn’t close fully. 

“We’re able to get the devices before they get approved by the FDA,” Dr. Castellanos says. “To me, that’s very important because our patients have access to that now. We’re getting this amazing technology in these early stages and that is going to change the practice of medicine in the future.”

Dr. Castellanos was born and raised in El Salvador. He came to Louisiana in 2010 and completed a fellowship in cardiovascular disease and interventional cardiology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Except for a yearlong fellowship in Seattle to focus on structural heart care, he’s spent the last 14 years practicing in the state. It’s become home to him, and his wife being from the area helps, too.

With Louisiana’s culture of food and celebrations also comes a prevalence of heart issues. That’s why he encourages the public to get regular checkups with their primary care provider. 

“You never know when something can happen,” he says. “We think we are invincible, especially young people, but it’s important to get your heart checked and to listen to your body. We sometimes get patients who waited too long, and the damage is too profound to fix. The earlier patients seek care, the better chances we have to help them.”

Dr. Castellanos has been honored as one of Our Lady of the Lake’s Geaux Heroes, which recognizes our incredible doctors and medical team members. He is being recognized February 24 at the Our Lady of the Lake Health sponsor game for LSU men’s basketball, where the team takes on Mississippi State.

Learn more about the variety of cardiovascular services we offer at the Our Lady of the Lake Heart & Vascular Institute as well as throughout our health system.

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