At a Glance:
- Title: Assistant Professor
- Fellowships: Structural Heart Disease, Interventional Cardiology and General Cardiology, Barnes Jewish Hospital of Washington University
- Residency: Internal Medicine, Cleveland Clinic
- Medical Degree: Drexel University
Nishtha Sodhi, MD, FACC, is the latest addition to the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center. She is a specialist in transcatheter valvular and coronary interventions.
What does a structural and interventional cardiologist do?
As a structural and interventional cardiologist, I have had additional training in minimally-invasive, catheter-based diagnosis and treatment of heart diseases. This subspecialty encompasses valvular heart disease, structural heart disease and coronary artery disease.
What motivated you to select this field?
I was in my first year of medical school when the early clinical trials on TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement, were initiated in the United States. Seeing the medical team replace a patient’s aortic valve without opening the chest was incredible. For the first time, there was an option for patients with severe aortic valve disease who might not otherwise be candidates for surviving traditional open-heart surgery. The technology, the faster post-procedure recovery and the immediate improvement in patients’ symptoms made a huge impression on me. I decided at that very early stage in my medical career that this was what I wanted to specialize in. Transcatheter therapies have completely transformed and revolutionized the management of valvular and coronary disease, and I feel privileged to be part of this exciting and dynamic subspecialty.
Less than 2% of structural and interventional cardiologists in the United States are women. Was this also a motivator for you?
Yes, there are very few female structural and interventional cardiologists in the United States. I am grateful to be part of this small group and had incredible mentorship and training. Heart disease in women is underdiagnosed. It often presents itself differently in women than in men, and there are also unique circumstances, for instance, during pregnancy, where women may be at higher risk of developing certain conditions. As a female structural and interventional cardiologist, I am very attuned to these issues when treating patients. I am also in a position to raise awareness among my colleagues and the community about the importance of taking these differences into account.
Who are you likely to see in your practice?
I see patients with both stenotic and regurgitant valve problems. I evaluate their candidacy for minimally invasive procedures instead of traditional open-heart surgery to either replace or repair their valves. These types of transcatheter procedures include TAVR, MitraClip™, valve-in-valve therapy and highly specialized procedures for tricuspid and pulmonary valves.
Another group of patients I treat have structural issues, either congenital or acquired. These include patent foramen ovale, atrial septal defects, ventricular septal defects, paravalvular leaks and hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, among others. I can often close or repair these defects also through transcatheter procedures.
In addition, I collaborate with electrophysiologists to perform implantation of devices like the Watchman, which provides an alternative to chronic blood thinners to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation.
Finally, when a patient is having an acute heart attack, I am called in emergently to open up the blocked vessel with balloons and stents. In patients with chronic heart artery blockages, I will work with patients to optimize their medications and evaluate them for percutaneous procedures.
How would a patient benefit from coming to UVA for a minimally invasive valve replacement?
Our Advanced Cardiac Valve Center is one of a few places in the U.S. that offers a full range of transcatheter and minimally invasive procedures for cardiac valve disease of the aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary heart valves. In addition, there are few medical centers in the country that can match the depth of experience we bring to percutaneous procedures. UVA has some of the highest volumes of TAVR, MitraClip, and structural heart procedures in the region. We believe that the expertise we’ve gained translates into better outcomes for our patients.
Additionally, as one of the leading programs in the country, we are fortunate to be involved with a large number of clinical trials utilizing novel transcatheter devices. These clinical trials can offer therapeutic options for patients who otherwise might not have any options.
Finally, one of the most important reasons that I think our Advanced Cardiac Valve Center is unique at UVA is that we are a truly multidisciplinary and collaborative team comprised of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurse practitioners, nurses, clinical researchers and coordinators. We all work together as a team to design a comprehensive treatment plan that meets the unique needs of each patient and their families. We don’t just a treat a medical condition in isolation; we take care of the patient and all of their needs in a comprehensive manner. We also try and streamline the evaluation process because we understand that many of our patients are elderly or traveling from far distances; we want to coordinate everything as best as possible for patients and their families.
What do you do to keep the lines of communication open with referring physicians?
My view is that communicating with referring physicians is not simply a question of professional courtesy. It’s a necessity. Referring physicians have an established relationship with their patients and knowledge of their conditions that often goes back many years. In developing a treatment plan, it’s imperative that I take advantage of their insights, and so I make it a practice to involve them in the diagnosis and evaluation process.
I also want to keep the door open after treatment. As soon as I perform a procedure, I update referring physicians about the outcome. And once the patient returns to the community, I make myself available to referring physicians for questions, especially if they observe any change in their patient’s condition. I truly believe that it is a collaborative partnership between our advanced cardiac valve center, the patient and their referring physicians.
You grew up in Philadelphia. How are you finding Charlottesville?
I like spending my time in the outdoors — and for that, Charlottesville is great. It’s a wonderful area with kind people and I am thrilled to be here.
To schedule an introductory meeting with Nishtha Sodhi, contact our Physician Relations Manager Liz Nottingham.