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Anesthesia Center of Excellence Designation for OB and Labor and Delivery
April 02, 2024

Kristal Nemeroff, who suffers from “brittle bones disease,” gave birth to her son, Christian, in March 2022, with help from a multidisciplinary team at St. Luke’s.

The Labor and Delivery Unit and Obstetric Anesthesia Service at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus have been designated as a Center of Excellence (COE) by the Society of Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP), putting them in elite company with select, national organizations that provide the highest level of safe and effective anesthesia care for women and their babies.

According to the SOAP website, the four-year COE designation recognizes institutions and programs that demonstrate excellence in obstetric anesthesia care and meet a benchmark of expected care to improve standards nationally and internationally, which focus on reducing mortality before, during and after childbirth. With this designation, St. Luke’s becomes only the third health system in Pennsylvania to achieve this recognition, joining the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Thomas Pfeiffer, MD, director of obstetric anesthesia for St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN), said this recognition confirms the strength of the organization’s ongoing commitment to implementing best practices in providing pain relief and safe newborn delivery across the network, where nearly 5,000 babies are born annually.

“Our focus on continuous communication, education and collaboration with our high-risk patients and their multidisciplinary team of primary care, OB, maternal-fetal medicine and anesthesia physicians follows our rigorous policies, plans and practices in caring for our medically complex patients,” Dr. Pfeiffer said. He is one of approximately 600 anesthesiologists in the nation who have completed a year-long fellowship in obstetric anesthesia, a subspecialty that is devoted to the comprehensive management of high-risk pregnancies. He also is SLUHN’s co-director of anesthesia education.

Kristal Nemeroff, of Effort, Pa., experienced this extraordinary level of specialized care at St. Luke’s during her pregnancy and the birth of her second son, Christian. Born with a genetic condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta, or “brittle bones disease,” Nemeroff’s high-risk pregnancy and complex delivery received continuous, careful attention and planning from her entire team, resulting in a safe, uncomplicated birth via cesarean delivery on March 21, 2022. Possible complications, including bone fractures, hemorrhage or even death were avoided due to this preparation and teamwork—with her at the center—led by her MFM specialist Hannah Anastasio, MD.

Dr. Anastasio initiated the cascade of specialists including MFM, obstetrics, physical therapy and Dr. Pfeiffer of obstetric anesthesiology to focus their attention on the safe delivery of their patient and her newborn. Several members of the Complex Mothers Team met with Nemeroff to address her concerns and minimize risk culminating in a multidisciplinary discussion to ensure everyone was coordinated on goals of care.

“I was amazed by the fantastic, compassionate and diligent care I received from the MFM team,” said the 36-year-old mother of two. “Mine wasn’t an average case, and all the doctors listened to me, knew the details of my condition and were prepared to deliver my baby. They all made me feel so comfortable, safe and understood.”

Dr. Pfeiffer led the institution’s efforts to achieve this COE designation, which required a rigorous, multifactorial review of St. Luke’s Anderson Campus’s staffing, protocols, training, quality reviews and technology by SOAP. A plaque bearing the COE designation will be presented formally to St. Luke’s at SOAP’s annual meeting in May. SOAP comprises anesthesiologists, obstetricians, pediatricians, and basic scientists from around the world who share an interest in the care of the pregnant patient and the newborn.

“Dr. Pfeiffer, through his ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) fellowship at Columbia University and extensive experience, adds an extra layer of expertise to our OB anesthesia program that results in the achievement of benchmark clinical safety outcomes and patient satisfaction scores in the 99th percentile on our labor and delivery units throughout our network,” said Aldo Carmona, MD, chairman of anesthesia for St. Luke’s.

“Under Dr. Pfeiffer’s leadership, our multidisciplinary teams are hyper-focused on providing the highest level of anesthesia care possible to our patients, with the mission of continuously reducing mortality and morbidity in expectant and new mothers and their newborns.”

“This would not be possible without the support and involvement of our OBGYN physicians, certified registered nurse anesthetists, labor and delivery nurses and support staff working as a team.”