2018 Winter

Eighteen years ago, Seth Worley, MD, began developing new tools and techniques to make it easier for physicians to implant electronic pacing leads in the heart’s left ventricle (LV) to treat heart failure. Known as interventional device implantation for cardiac resynchronization therapy, Dr. Worley’s unique approach is internationally recognized and relied upon as a breakthrough method for treating patients with heart failure.

By applying Dr. Worley’s innovations, cardiac electrophysiologists can implant LV leads more quickly and substantially reduce radiation exposure. His unique procedure also offers a higher success rate, thereby improving patient quality of life, cutting hospital stays and eliminating the need for more invasive surgical procedures.

Dr. Worley joined MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute (MHVI) at MedStar Washington Hospital, becoming the tenth physician in the Section of Cardiac Electrophysiology, a senior consultant of Cardiac Rhythm Device Management, and director of the MHVI Interventional Implant Program.

He recalls how his knack for building began by watching his father, Pittsburgh-area plastic surgeon Carl M. Worley, MD, invent devices to protect patients undergoing complex facial reconstruction.

“I had this natural curiosity to see what my dad was doing during all those hours in the basement,” he says. “As I went from watcher to helper, I got used to the idea that if there’s a problem, you try to figure out a way to fix it.”

That hands-on experience gave the younger Dr. Worley a high comfort level with both electricity and electronic devices as he entered Temple University Medical School in the mid-1970s, sparking his interest in the emerging field of cardiac electrophysiology (EP).

“As a new discipline, EP offered many opportunities for innovation,” he says. “It really was a natural fit.”

Dr. Worley proved to be a prolific researcher as well. During his subsequent 30-year career at Lancaster General Hospital in Pennsylvania, he led dozens of studies and clinical trials, analyzing the viability and effectiveness of new treatment approaches, some of which challenged the then current thinking of his peers.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy would prove to be the culmination of Dr. Worley’s personal and professional commitment to improving patient care. Tapping those innate problem-solving skills honed during the many hours spent with his father, he repeatedly shaped and reshaped the tiny tools he felt would overcome anatomic challenges that had made placement of LV electrodes difficult, if not impossible.

As his techniques were proven and accepted, Dr. Worley found himself in demand as a teacher. For the last several years, his monthly training program has attracted physicians from around the world to watch him demonstrate the tools and techniques on patients who have had a failed implant attempt at another center, or when a previously implanted lead does not achieve the desired clinical effect. Often, physicians attending the program will accompany their own patients for the procedure.

Dr. Worley looks forward to continuing his role as researcher and teacher at MHVI, ensuring that patients with heart failure continue to benefit from his work.

“That personal connection with the patient, and what he or she would experience, is what keeps me going,” he says.