UCHealth Memorial Hospital now offers advanced, less-invasive heart surgery

Jan. 25, 2017

In another sign of providing advanced care close to home, UCHealth Memorial Hospital performed its first-ever TAVR – Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement – surgeries on Thursday.

Dr. Peter Walinsky, a new cardiac surgeon at Memorial, performed the innovative  surgeries on three people, ages 90, 87 and 80, in a new cardiac suite Thursday at Memorial Hospital Central.

Since its approval by the Food and Drug Administration in late 2011, TAVR has been used mostly in patients who have a heart-valve condition called aortic stenosis but are too high of a risk for the traditional open-heart surgery required for aortic valve replacement.

Headshot of Dr. Peter Walinsky
Dr. Peter Walinsky performs TAVR surgery at Memorial Hospital Central

TAVR is a less-invasive procedure in which a team of heart surgeons and interventional cardiologists works together to place a collapsible artificial valve into the heart through a patient’s artery. The doctor advances a catheter through the femoral artery or enters through a vessel closer to the heart.

“For older people, frail people and other high-risk patients who would not tolerate open-heart surgery well, this is a good option,” said Paula Johnson, a nurse practitioner in the TAVR program at Memorial Hospital.

Johnson said those who were operated on Thursday were ready to be discharged Friday, only 24 hours after their surgeries.

“Their families are very surprised at how quickly they are able to recover,” she said.

More TAVR procedures are scheduled in January.

Dr. Walinsky spent nine years at Johns Hopkins University Hospital before moving west to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he started what was at the time the only TAVR program in New Mexico. Walinsky brought that expertise to Memorial on Aug. 1, 2016.

Walinsky also performs aortic and aortic root surgery, valve preservation and re-operative cardiac surgery.

Walinsky believes in treating every person the same, regardless of his or her status or station in life.

“My philosophy is to treat people the way you would like to be treated. When I’m in the operating room or I’m on the floor with a patient, the question I ask is, ‘If I were the patient, what would I want?’ And that really should be the gold standard,’’ he said.


About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.