Barrow Named HHT Center of Excellence

Cure HHT, the nation’s leading advocacy organization for hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia, has named Barrow Neurological Institute an HHT Center of Excellence. It is the only facility in Arizona to earn this distinction.

Cure HHT recognizes centers equipped with the personnel, expertise, commitment, and resources to provide comprehensive evaluation, treatment, and education to individuals with HHT and their families.

“Barrow and Arizona Pulmonary Specialists have a track record of delivering excellence,” said Jeremy Feldman, MD, a pulmonary specialist who partners with Barrow physicians to treat HHT. “We are excited to be able to offer the breadth and depth of expertise that is required to care for this complex disease.”

HHT is a genetic condition that causes arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)—abnormal tangles of blood vessels in which arteries and veins connect directly to each other instead of being linked by small vessels called capillaries.

AVMs are prone to bleeding and can form in various organs of the body in people with HHT. They may develop underneath the skin—appearing as red lines called telangiectases—or in the nose, brain, spinal cord, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. An AVM can potentially be disabling or deadly, depending on its location.

Barrow Neurological Institute has long been the mecca for brain AVMs,” said Michael T. Lawton, MD, president and CEO of Barrow. “This is the place where the Spetzler-Martin grading system for AVMs was developed, where we have been refining that system with Lawton-Young supplementary grading, where management strategies like staged embolization and resection were popularized, and where we continue to be one of if not the highest volume centers for AVM surgery—operating on more than 50 AVMs per year.

“Barrow is also the place where the formation and bleeding behavior of AVMs is studied in a transgenic mouse model of the disease based on the genetic mutations found in patients with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia. It’s fitting that we are now the HHT Center of Excellence in the region. We look forward to seeing patients with this diagnosis and delivering the best care to them.”

HHT Centers of Excellence proactively manage the care of patients with HHT with an integrated team of experts, all of whom are knowledgeable about the rare—but often undiagnosed—disease.

“HHT is a complicated lifelong genetic disease with manifestations that cross multiple organs and multiple specialties,” Dr. Feldman said. “The Barrow HHT Program allows us to bring together pulmonary; ear, nose, and throat; gastrointestinal; interventional radiology; and neurosurgery experts to care for these patients.”

The HHT Center of Excellence designation will also support Barrow’s research into the processes underlying AVM formation and enhance the Institute’s ability to assess novel therapies.

“Research is fundamental to improving the lives of patients with HHT,” said Joseph Zabramski, MD, an emeritus professor of neurosurgery at Barrow with a specialty in AVMs. “The Barrow HHT Program will provide an opportunity to further expand our ongoing laboratory and clinical research programs as we look to better understand this disease and advance treatment. Becoming an HHT Center of Excellence is just a part of our commitment to offering only the best care to our patients and their families.”