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Care for Open Heart Surgery at University of Colorado Hospital

Why Choose Treatment for Open Heart Surgery at University of Colorado Hospital?

As part of an academic medical center, University of Colorado Hospital offers the best care available for patients who need open heart surgery. 

Our skilled surgeons - who, as School of Medicine faculty, teach the next generation of heart surgeons - use advanced technology and proven techniques to repair an array of heart and vascular conditions. 

In addition, we provide a full range of pre-operative testing and after-care services.

Medical Team

Open Heart Surgery Specialists

Cardiologist - a doctor who specialize in study of the actions of the heart and its diseases

Cardiac Surgeon - a surgeon who specializes in the surgical treatment of heart disease

Cardiac surgery fellow - a doctor whose training emphasizes teaching and research and who is receiving clinical training in cardiac surgery

Residents/interns - doctors who have completed medical school and are continuing with post-graduate medical training.


Other Open Heart Surgery Staff

Cardiac surgery case manager - a health professional who manages and coordinates the care of patients between different departments

Exercise physiologists - a health professional who teaches patients how to safely exercise to improve their health.

Registered nurses - nurses licensed in the state of Colorado who conducts medical evaluations, takes patient histories and provides ongoing care for patients

Occupational therapist - a health professional trained to help people who are ill or disabled learn to manage their daily activities.

Physical therapist - a trained health professional who performs and teaches exercise, massage and other techniques that aid in recovery and maximize physical ability with less pain.

Tests (to determine need for surgery)

Cardiac Catheterization

Helps your doctor determine the pressure on the heart and the blood vessels feeding it. The catheterization requires a small tube to be inserted through the artery in the groin and passed through to the heart. An injection of dye allows your doctor to see the pattern of blood flow to and through your heart and determine if there are blockages.


The ultrasound test uses a wand that emits painless, high-frequency sound waves to show how well blood is flowing through the arteries.


An echocardiogram (ECHO), also known as a cardiac ultrasound, uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart.


An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is used to determine the rate and regularity of your heartbeat. The ECG is administered by attaching wires to your body. The wires detect electrical signals from the heart, which are recorded on a machine for the doctor’s review.


Aortic Valve Repair/Replacement

The aortic valve lies between the left lower chamber of the heart (the ventricle), and the aorta, the largest artery in the body. The valves of your heart open and close tightly to ensure that blood flows in only one direction and does not leak backward.

The aortic valve may not function properly due to:

  • Disease
  • Narrowing (stenosis) caused by calcium deposits on the leaflets (the parts that open) of the valves
  • Incomplete closure (prolapse)

If the aortic valve malfunction seriously restricts the flow of blood to your heart, your surgeon may decide to repair or replace it with open heart surgery.

Mitral Valve Repair/Replacement

The mitral valve lies between the heart’s left upper chamber (atrium), and left ventricle. As with the aortic valve, the mitral valve may malfunction, causing leakages that diminish blood flow from the ventricles of the heart to the rest of the body.

If the mitral valve malfunction seriously affects the flow of blood away from your heart, your surgeon may decide to repair or replace it with open heart surgery. In the vast majority of cases, your mitral valve can be repaired.

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery

Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) may be performed if the arteries bringing blood to your heart (the coronaries) become so thick and hard with fatty deposits called plaque that blood flow is blocked. The blockage creates a risk of heart attack and death. CABG surgery involves grafting a healthy blood vessel to the heart to reroute the blood around the blockage.

Transmyocardial Revascularization

Transmyocardial revascularization (TMR) is used to relieve severe chest pain caused by constriction of the arteries (angina) for patients who are not candidates for CABG. Sometimes, TMR is performed along with a CABG.

Your surgeon performs TMR by opening the left side of the chest, exposing the heart and then using lasers to drill small holes in the outside of the heart. The drilling creates channels in the left ventricle. These channels may help to improve blood flow, thus easing the angina. TMR may also help to stimulate the growth of new capillaries (small blood vessels) that supply blood to the heart.

Heart Transplant Surgery

Heart transplantation is available for patients whose cardiac disease is too severe to be treated with medicine or surgery and whose life expectancy is less than one year.

MAZE Procedure

If you suffer from an irregular heartbeat, your doctor may perform a surgical operation called a MAZE procedure to correct it.

The irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation, occurs when the electrical signals that cause the heart to contract occur irregularly or intermittently. As a result, the flow of blood from the atrium to the ventricle is disrupted.

During the MAZE procedure, your surgeon will make incisions in the atrium, and then sew them together again. The scar tissue from the incisions blocks the irregular signal and forces it to travel directly from the atrium to the ventricle.

Ross Procedure

The Ross procedure replaces your diseased or damaged aortic valve with your own healthy pulmonary valve from the left side of your heart. Your surgeon then replaces the pulmonary valve with one from a cadaver.

Surgical Aneurysm Repair

You may need surgery to repair a life-threatening aneurysm. such as one in the aorta, the main artery of your body. Your surgeon will make incisions at the site of the aneurysm, clamp the artery and remove blood clots and plaque from the aneurysm. Very often your surgeon will then sew a graft to the artery above and below the aneurysm, allowing the blood to bypass the aneurysm.

Patient Education

Life After Open Heart Surgery

After your open heart surgery, your medical team will provide you with steps to follow to speed your recovery. They also will tell you what symptoms to monitor.

University of Colorado Hospital also offers a cardiovascular rehabilitation program to keep your heart healthy.

Getting a Second Opinion About Open Heart Surgery

The doctors and staff at the University of Colorado Hospital Cardiac & Vascular Center are happy to provide second opinions for people who have been told they need open heart surgery.

Support Groups

Mended Hearts - National support group for patients, their families and friends with heart disease.

Additional Resources

American Heart Association

Heart surgery

About Open Heart Surgery

Open heart surgery is performed by opening the chest in order to reach the heart and make needed repairs.

The “open” refers to the chest, although the heart itself may be opened during the surgery.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 650,000 open heart surgeries were performed in the U.S. in 2004.

UCH doctors honored

UCH doctors' advanced 3-D imaging, heart modeling aims to improve patient outcomes. Read more . . .


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