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Cardiac Surgery

Dr Edward Bove, Chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery
Chair Edward Bove offers a letter of introduction to the department.

Department of Cardiac Surgery:
Rooted in Excellence in Patient Care, Education and Research

The University of Michigan’s Department of Cardiac Surgery sets the standard for premier heart care today, ranking among the top centers in the nation for heart, vascular and stroke care. The Michigan Department of Cardiac Surgery uses the best existing technology for cardiac surgeons.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the University’s cardiac surgery care among the top 10 in the nation and the best in the state of Michigan. Since it’s such a high volume center for treatment of heart disease—with volume up 50 percent in the past five years—surgeons gain extensive experience with the vast variety of cases. Surgeons in the Department have handled over 20,000 cases since cardiac care began at Michigan. This bodes well for patients, since research shows a high correlation between volumes and positive outcomes, especially with complex congenital heart disease. Physicians are leaders in their fields, skilled in addressing everything from the most routine to rare, complex procedures.

World Class Pediatric Heart Surgery

The Section of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery is one of the busiest congenital heart programs in the U.S. and the largest in the state of Michigan. Pediatric surgeons perform over 900 procedures annually. The pediatric program was among six out of 113 children’s hospitals to be awarded the Society of Thoracic Surgeons three star rating two years in a row, the highest designation for pediatric heart surgery programs. Pediatric patients come to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital from 44 states and 33 countries for surgical treatment of all forms of congenital heart defects. Last year, roughly a quarter of the patients were from states outside of Michigan. It’s one of only a handful in the country with a fetal intervention program and ranks in the top five fetal heart programs in the world in volume of fetal cardiac interventions. Surgeons are leaders in performing surgery to repair single ventricle heart defects, as well as the double switch procedure for corrected transposition of the great arteries, both rare, complex surgeries. A 30 bed intensive care unit is dedicated solely to patients with congenital heart disease. Michigan’s pediatric cardiac surgery mortality rates for the most complex cases are nearly half the national average.

Adult Cardiac Surgery advances heart care

The Section of Adult Cardiac Surgery, where surgeons performed 1,334 adult cardiac surgery operations in 2015, continually evolves and advances diagnoses and treatments for cardiac and thoracic aortic diseases.  A few highlights from our Outcomes publication include the Transcatheter Valve Program which provides treatment for valvular heart disease by focusing on valve replacement and repair with valve preservation techniques through a minimally invasive, or thoracotomy approach. Another notable program works in the treatment of atrial and ventricular arrhythmias to allow us to provide hybrid therapies in concert with our electrophysiologists. The team's expertise also extends to the review of complex ischemic heart disease patients so they can be provided the most appropriate and informed treatments available.

At the Forefront of Innovation

The Department of Cardiac Surgery has pioneered numerous procedures, including minimally invasive valve replacements and an improved way of repairing aortic aneurysms. The center is a world leader in caring for children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, providing treatment for over 1,000 newborns with the condition. University of Michigan surgeons have reduced the mortality rate from 90 percent to less than 10 percent. As a teaching institution focused on research, surgeons are committed to offering the newest advances to the patients they serve.

Premiere Surroundings For Patients and Researchers

Cardiac Care patients have the advantage of being treated in world class, highly-ranked facilities, including the Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center, which was built in 2007 and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital built in 2011.

As you enter the Cardiovascular Center, you’re enveloped in a calming environment, surrounded by healing gardens, rooms for quiet reflection and a heart healthy cafe. The 35,000 square foot facility is home to the most advanced multidisciplinary care. The Center has received accolades for its efforts in design for patient and family-centered care.. For more information on the facility, visit the Cardiovascular Center website

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is designed to be both patient and parent friendly. Mott is ranked number two in the state of Michigan on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best hospitals. For more information on the facility, visit the Mott Children's Hospital website.

One and a half floors in Mott are dedicated to congenital heart care. Every patient has a private room, including their own bathroom. Since Mott is part of the Von Voightlander Women’s Hospital, expectant moms who have received a fetal diagnosis of a heart defect deliver their baby in the same facility where their child is cared for once he or she is born. There’s no need to transfer the baby to a separate heart center, making for a seamless and easier transition. A Ronald McDonald house, which provides comfortable lodging for parents of Mott patients who have traveled from outside of Ann Arbor, is located conveniently just outside the ICU doors.

Researchers pursue innovations in cardiac surgery at the North Campus Research Complex, a voluminous space in which to explore potential new discoveries. Acquired from Pfizer by the University of Michigan in 2009, the complex of 28 buildings totals 2.1 million square feet of space devoted to office, research and manufacturing. The setting is set up to be conducive to collaboration. Here, cardiac surgeons sit side by side with those in other disciplines, including engineers and biologists, to encourage cross-pollination, a situation that often leads to the greatest breakthroughs. For more information on the Research Complex, visit the NCRC website.

Renowned Faculty

The high caliber and stellar reputation of the Department of Cardiac Surgery draws the best surgeons from around the U.S. and the world. They’re not merely outstanding heart surgeons; they’re also mentors, innovators and respected administrators. Dr. Edward Bove, the Department Chairman, is revered both nationally and internationally for his surgical expertise. He has performed over 10,000 cardiac surgeries during his 30 years at the University of Michigan.

Leaders and Best in the Field

When the Department of Cardiac Surgery became its own department, Department chair Dr. Bove deliberately selected section leaders who have strong national and international reputations, and whose research is well funded by the National Institutes of Health. The strength of the Department is reflected in the many faculty who are recruited and trained at Michigan, then have stayed many years, building their entire careers here. The faculty are well represented at both national and international professional society meetings, with many having an integral role in planning these meetings. Dr. Richard Prager was previously president of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association and is president-elect of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, two extremely prestigious societies. Having someone in Prager’s professional leadership role on the faculty is like sitting in the West Wing of Thoracic Surgery. 

The Female Perspective

Women are significantly underrepresented in the field of cardiac surgery. According to a 2012 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 4.6 percent of thoracic surgery physicians are female. Despite these small numbers, there are two female faculty members in the Department of Surgery. Dr. Jennifer Romano is among the few female congenital heart surgeons in the country. Dr. Karen Kim handles adult cardiac patients. Having two female faculty members in a Cardiac Surgery Department demonstrates the university’s commitment to gender diversity.

Vast Experience Treating a Range of Patient Problems

Because the Cardiac Care Department sees such a large volume of patients, our surgeons have been able to accumulate a breadth of knowledge that translates directly into providing superior treatment.

Specialization Knowledge that Runs Deep

Each faculty member in the Department is required to develop their own niche in a subspecialty in cardiac surgery that they can share with the rest of the surgical team. This approach has served as a national model, where surgeons become well versed in the most refined of procedures. They have developed a rich depth of expertise that allows them to successfully treat many different types of patients with unique problems.

Collaborators, not Competitors

Only physicians who want to be team players are selected to be on the faculty. They work jointly to make research, training, education and patient care the top priorities. In a multidisciplinary fashion, surgeons coordinate care with those in different specialties to find the best answer for patients, instead of sticking to their own silos. Cardiac surgeons and cardiologists work together with a team that also includes nurses, social workers and anesthesiologists. Each applies their expertise to the care of the patient. This is key when dealing with a high number of complex problems. And it results in having the right person in the right place at the right time to treat the problem. The amiable work environment means that surgeons want to stay here. No cardiac surgeons have left since the stand alone department was established.

Compassionate Listeners

Our surgeons never take for granted the seriousness of what it means to fix a patient’s broken heart. Such an endeavor requires utmost confidence, but that doesn’t get in the way of sympathizing with the struggles that patients in the Cardiac Surgery Department face. Our surgeons are sensitive to the fact that the prospect of cardiac surgery can be frightening. They provide empathy and comfort, while ensuring that patients’ concerns are heard and that they are well cared for during their hospital stay. They model this behavior for trainees, demonstrating how to provide the most compassionate care. 

Charitably-Minded

Faculty have gone on overseas missions to help those with lacking resources for medical care. Dr. Richard G. Ohye, head of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery, has traveled to El Salvador, performing one to two operations a day for a week while training cardiologists in more complex procedures.  Visit faculty profiles for more information.