Right now, Dr. Augusta Pelosi is working to build an open-heart team consisting of about 25 members - Dr. Fernando Garcia heads the anesthesia/perfusion part of the team, Dr. Andy Brown heads up critical care, Dr. Bari Olivier is in charge of cardiology, and Pelosi heads surgery.
The remainder of the 25-member team consists of specialized technicians, highly trained in cardiovascular support.
Pelosi supervises the whole team.
The board-certified surgeon and residency-trained cardiologist plans to create a "scrub nurse" position, something that doesn't currently exist in veterinary medicine, she says. This person is in the operating room at the side of the surgeon, coordinating the surgery table and all activity in the sterile part of the operating room.
"We are learning to work as a team before we do an actual clinical case," Pelosi says.
Once the team gets started, there is very little they won't do.
"We'll start with surgical procedures on the right side of the heart - pulmonic stenosis and cardiac tumors, such as hemangioscarcomas -- because they will not require us to stop cardiac activity during the procedure," Pelosi says. "As we progress and gain more experience, we'll move on to other, more difficult procedures where there is a need to stop the heart and which also require very complex techniques - tetralogy of Fallot, mitral repair and replacement, for example."
Dr. George Eyster , who founded the cardiology discipline at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine more than 40 years ago, stepped down in 2008, leaving the veterinary teaching hospital with one of the strongest veterinary cardiology practices in the country, according to the school. He mentored Pelosi, who is working extensively with Eyster on the revamped program.
The college already has purchased new equipment for the program.
"Right now there are no viable surgical alternatives for dogs with certain kinds of cardiac diseases, and their chances of survival are very poor," Pelosi says. "We hope to fill that need."