Heart Institute

Heart Institute Ranked Among the Top 10 Percent

2016 was an outstanding year for Virginia Mason’s Heart Institute. The dedication of the cardiology, emergency and hospital teams led to top honors for the Heart Institute. Awards including:

  • The Platinum Performance Achievement Award from the American College of Cardiology, recognizing the Heart Institute as a leader in implementing standards of care and protocols for treatment of heart attacks.
  • Three out of three stars by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for coronary bypass grafts and aortic valve replacement surgery outcomes. Only 10 percent of the cardiac surgery teams in the U.S. received this award.
  • The Washington Award of Excellence in Healthcare Quality for work in improving care for patients hospitalized for heart attack. Under the direction of Drew Baldwin, MD, the team created a decision support tool to ensure all patients receive recommended therapies according to clinical guidelines.

Sarah Schaaff’s journey back to good health

Sarah Schaaff now enjoys a healthy, active life.
Sarah Schaaff now enjoys a healthy,
active life.

Sarah Schaaff was working as a restaurant manager when she first noticed the pain in her shoulder. She thought it might be caused by lifting trays.

“The doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing it. Then about two years ago I started having trouble breathing,” Sarah says. “I’d walk a couple of blocks and be out of breath, which wasn’t like me at all.” She went to her doctor who looked at her X-ray, told her she had an enlarged heart and referred her to Virginia Mason cardiologist Michael Longo, MD. “After I failed my stress test, he told me ‘you don’t have an enlarged heart, but something is definitely wrong.’”


The Heart Institute is one of only 233 organizations in the nation to receive the Platinum Performance Achievement Award from the American College of Cardiology.


An angiogram confirmed she had two blocked arteries — one at 90 percent and the second was completely blocked — and Dr. Longo considered the possibility of open-heart surgery for Sarah. But through collaboration with interventional cardiologist Gordon Kritzer, MD, and thanks to technological advances for treating high-risk total occlusions, they were able to clear the blockages with an angioplasty, (inserting and inflating a small balloon in the vessel). The blood flow was restored by approaching the obstruction through both femoral arteries (in the thigh) and coming at the blockage from both directions.

“Dr. Longo is such a fantastic doctor,” Sarah says. “I felt taken care of from day one, through the whole process. I was so scared, and he really put my mind at ease.”

Following the second procedure, Sarah’s boss suggested they join Weight Watchers. They also worked out together — doing planks and squats in the office during breaks. After a year, Sarah lost 80 pounds and now has only 10 more pounds to lose to reach her goal. “Dr. Longo won’t tell me what my ideal weight should be,” she says. “He tells me I should just focus on getting fit, and so that’s what I’m doing.”

Healthgrades Five-Star Recipient for Treatment of Heart Attack
Healthgrades Five-Star Recipient for Treatment of Heart Failure


Virginia Mason received Healthgrades’ coveted 5-star rating for heart attack (six years in a row) and heart failure (five consecutive years). This is the highest rating possible.