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VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Cardiothoracic surgery

People working togetherVCU Pauley Heart Center’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery encompasses several specialty areas, including heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias, aortic surgery, heart and lung transplant, minimally invasive surgery, general thoracic surgery and surgery for congenital heart disease.  The specialists in the division routinely work closely with related disciplines, including cancer specialists, cardiologists, pulmonologists and others to provide each patient with the most accurate assessment of his or her condition followed by the most appropriate treatment plan.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Coronary artery bypass grafting or "CABG" is the most commonly performed "open heart" operation in the United States. The surgery is performed to bypass blockages or obstructions of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. The heart relies on these fuels as it works constantly to pump blood through the body. The term ischemic heart disease refers to this condition, when the heart does not get these fuels. When the heart is sufficiently ischemic (when the shortage of fuel is critical enough), the muscle begins to die. This is a "heart attack" or myocardial infarction.

At Pauley Heart Center, our surgeons specialize CABG surgical techniques including the use of arterial conduits, minimally invasive vein harvesting, Off-Pump cardiac surgery, complex re-operations, hybrid procedures and transmyocardial laser revascularization (TMR). Many patients referred for coronary bypass surgery have poorly functioning heart muscle. Our heart surgeons are pioneering innovative approaches to the management of these patients, with complex bypass surgery and use of miniaturized heart pumps to allow patients a chance for a successful recovery.

Valve Repair and Replacement

Our heart surgeons have extensive experience in heart valve repair and heart valve replacement surgery, performing more than 200 heart valve operations annually. Most often, heart valve surgery is indicated for patients with either or both of the two most common types of valve diseases. They are valvular stenosis, which results when a heart valve does not open fully, and heart valve regurgitation, which occurs when a valve does not close completely. Both disorders can cause the heart to work harder, which in turn can result in weakening of the heart and inadequate blood circulation to the rest of the body. Left untreated, heart valve disease can diminish a person’s quality of life and lead to serious and even life threatening conditions.

We offer a variety of surgical techniques to repair or replace heart valves, which may be combined with other surgical procedures such as bypass surgery, atrial fibrillation surgery and thoracic aortic surgery. Surgeries include both minimally invasive and conventional open-heart approaches, and valve replacement types may be either biological or mechanical.  The type of valve disease surgery that we recommend depends on factors such as the type of valve disease, severity of the disease, medical history and age of the individual patient.    

Support for the Failing Heart

The Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at VCU Pauley Heart Center is leading the way in the use of implantable devices such as the Jarvik and Heartmate II Ventricular Assist Devices in the treatment of heart failure. These devices provide a bridge to transplantation for critically ill patients and may also be used long-term as an alternative to transplantation.

For heart transplant candidates with severe heart failure that cannot be treated with a VAD, a temporary-Total Artificial Heart (t-TAH) may be implanted. The t-TAH replaces the entire failing heart, providing clinical stability until a donor heart becomes available. For more information about our heart assist device and t-TAH treatments, please see our Mechanical Assist Devices & Total Artificial Heart page.

Surgery to Ablate Arrhythmias

Our Atrial Fibrillation Program is nationally recognized for the treatment of heart rhythm disturbances. Please visit our Atrial Fibrillation Program page to learn more about our AF patient services.

Thoracic Aortic Surgery

Our Thoracic Aortic Disease Program is designed not only to treat aortic disease surgically, but as a medical disease management program that provides excellent care across the disease repertoire. That includes the full array of diagnostic services, as well as a personalized care strategy that may include medical therapy, lifestyle modifications, ongoing monitoring and elective surgical treatments, to the other end of the spectrum, caring for the sickest of the patients who have had an aortic catastrophe. More information about our program is available on our Thoracic Aortic Disease Program page.

Heart Transplantation

VCU Pauley Heart Center’s heart transplantation program is distinguished by its esteemed heart failure and transplant specialists, its pioneering surgical techniques and technologies, and its excellent outcome record.

Our heart transplant program was established in 1968, making it the longest running transplant program on the East coast and the second oldest in the United States. We have remained a leader in the development of heart transplantation, contributing to improvements in transplant technology, medications, procedures and management. Under our present program, we have performed over 400 transplants.  For an overview of our heart transplant program in a question and answer format, please visit our Heart Transplant Program page.