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Cardiothoracic team pioneers minimally invasive surgical options in SoCo

By: Hannah Blick, hannah.blick@gazette.com
February 3, 2016 Updated: February 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm
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Look for Heart Health features on gazette.com/heart throughout American Heart Month, sponsored by Penrose-St. Francis Health Services.

It’s an exciting time to be a cardiothoracic surgeon in southern Colorado – just ask Dr. John R. Mehall, MD, Director of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery for Centura Health.

“We have the expertise to do the full spectrum of heart valve surgery, including minimally invasive heart valve surgery, complex valve repair and re-operations, and transcatheter procedures for both aortic and mitral valves,” said Dr. Mehall, also managing partner at Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery Associates (CTSA), an independent surgical group in the state that works at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, part of the Centura Health Heart and Vascular Network, the region’s leading provider of cardiovascular care.  

CTSA performs about 500 heart operations and procedures annually at Penrose-St. Francis, making it the busiest adult cardiac surgery program in the state. As a practice, including its Denver and Pueblo locations, CTSA performs about 1,000 heart operations each year.

Dr. Mehall performs more minimally invasive heart valve procedures than anyone in the Rocky Mountain region. In early January, he performed a transcatheter re-replacement of both the aortic and mitral valves in the same patient – to his knowledge, one of the first in the state. “I had done open heart surgery about 10 years ago on this patient and place two new heart valves at that time, but after a decade they wore out and needed replacement,” he said. “Because this patient was in her eighties now, I didn’t think a complex operation would be best, so we replaced both valves with catheter valves in one 90-minute, minimally invasive procedure.”

“Last year, we performed almost 100 transcatheter valve replacements, although we saw and evaluated 250 people,” he said. “This has been the biggest development in heart surgery in the last five years, the ability to do valve replacements and repair using a percutaneous catheter approach. Most procedures are done awake with only sedation and no incision.  Obviously, this is much easier on the patient and many go home the next day.”

Along with Drs. Betty S. Kim, John R. Frederick, Milton Glatterer, Theolyn Price and Patrick D. Rudersdorf, CTSA is pushing the boundaries of cardiac and thoracic surgery, as well as improving education and awareness of cardiothoracic disease in Colorado.

Penrose-St. Francis is the only hospital in southern Colorado that is able to perform transcatheter valve replacement, and Dr. Mehall is hoping to increase patient and physician awareness about these options. “Often, people don’t pursue valve procedures because they think it means open heart surgery, but there are so many other options now.”

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