Cardiothoracic surgery

When you need world-class, highly skilled surgical treatment.

Our expert surgeons team with well-trained cardiothoracic professionals to care for you before, during and after surgery. Our surgical specialties include aortic and aortic root surgery, minimally invasive cardiothoracic surgery, valve preservation and more. We also offer a full spectrum of care for both elective and emergency procedures.

Types of cardiothoracic surgeries we perform

Services provided may vary by location.

Aortic aneurysm repair

Aortic dissection occurs when a small tear develops in the wall of the aorta, a serious condition. The tear forms an additional pathway for blood flow within that section of the aorta, causing the layers of the aorta to separate and weaken. The tear can extend through all layers of the aorta, resulting in massive blood loss and death.

We perform two types of surgery to repair aortic dissection:

Traditional surgery

We access the aorta and repair the dissection by removing the most severely damaged portion and replacing it with a graft.

Thoracic endovascular aorta repair

A minimally invasive procedure where we insert a stent graft through a catheter inside the damaged portion of the aorta to strengthen it and prevent blood from flowing between the layers of the aortic wall.

vascular care cardiac surgery

Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)

Your coronary arteries wrap around the outside of your heart and supply your heart muscle with oxygenated blood. Coronary artery disease can occur when the inner lining of one or more of the coronary arteries is injured, damaged or blocked with fatty deposits called plaque. This can lead to heart attack and possibly death.

Depending on the extent and severity of your coronary artery disease, coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery may be your best treatment option. In this surgery, we take a vein from another part of your body—typically the internal mammary artery—and use it to create a new conduit around the blocked portion of your coronary artery.

Heart failure surgeries

Heart failure, or “congestive” heart failure (CHF), is a condition where your heart can no longer pump the necessary volume of oxygenated blood to your body.

Many conditions that lead to heart failure cannot be reversed, but we can treat heart failure and improve your quality of life. In addition to medications and lifestyle changes, a surgical procedure may be part of your unique treatment plan. These treatments are available at our UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital location.

Heart transplant

If you have advanced heart failure but are otherwise relatively healthy, we replace your heart with a donor heart.

Learn more about heart transplantation

Mechanical circulatory support

A ventricular assist device (VAD) is a type of mechanical pump that augments the flow of oxygenated blood from your heart to your body, and can be used as a short- or long-term treatment. We can surgically implant it in your chest cavity or you can wear it outside of your body.

Learn more about LVAD

vascular care cardiac surgery

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)

ECMO is a technique where your blood is withdrawn from a large vein in your body, then passed through a pumping mechanism and a device that adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide. Your blood is then returned to your circulatory system and circulated throughout your body. ECMO is typically a short-term treatment protocol for respiratory failure resulting from such things as infection, pneumonia, trauma or smoke inhalation.

UCHealth has been named an ECMO Center of Excellence–Gold by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization.

Learn more about ECMO

Heart valve repair, replacement and TAVR

Inside the heart are four valves—pulmonary, tricuspid, aortic and mitral. When healthy and working properly, these valves keep the blood flowing in the right direction.

These valves can lose function due to a variety of causes. This is called heart valve disease. Heart valves may not open completely (stenosis) or may not close completely (regurgitation). Surgical intervention is often the preferred course of treatment for heart valve disease.

Heart valve repair

The mitral valve is the most commonly repaired heart valve, but all four of the valves may be repaired depending upon the nature and severity of heart valve disease present.

The most common heart valve repair techniques are:

  • Commissurotomy – Repair of a narrowed mitral valve that removes calcium deposits and scarring.
  • Decalcification – Calcium deposits are surgically removed to allow the valve to function properly.
  • Leaflet reshaping – Poorly functioning sections of a valve leaflet are removed.

Heart valve replacement

Depending on the nature and severity of your heart valve disease, your physician may include valve replacement surgery in your treatment plan. In fact, we typically treat disease of the aortic valve and the pulmonic valve with valve replacement rather than repair. Replacements can be mechanical, biological or allograft valves.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

A minimally invasive heart valve replacement surgery we commonly perform. We deliver a new aortic valve to the site of implantation via a catheter. TAVR usually results in a shorter recovery time than open-heart surgery, and can be particularly beneficial for patients who are too ill to undergo open-heart valve replacement surgery.

Learn more about TAVR.

Maze procedure for atrial fibrillation

When your heart functions normally, the chambers beat in a consistent and coordinated manner. When the two upper chambers—the atria—beat chaotically and irregularly, and out of coordination with the two lower chambers—the ventricles—the result is a condition called atrial fibrillation. It is caused by irregular and rapid electric discharges within the heart, which can be corrected surgically with the maze procedure.

During this procedure, your surgeon creates a maze of scar tissue in your heart. Because scar tissue is not a good conductor of electrical signals, the maze redirects the abnormal electric discharges through a more appropriate and controlled path, thus reducing atrial fibrillation. The maze procedure is usually carried out during open-heart surgery and is often performed along with other cardiothoracic surgery.

vascular care cardiac surgery

Team approach to heart care

If you need cardiothoracic surgery, our expert surgeons will collaborate with our well-trained cardiothoracic professionals to customize a plan to treat your condition and help you heal. Let’s get your heart healthy once again.


The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. What Is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon? The Patient Guide to Heart, Lung, and Esophageal Surgery –

Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Thoracic Surgery/Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery –