What is Cardiothoracic Surgery?

Cardiothoracic surgery is a specialty involving surgical procedures to correct problems affecting the circulatory system: heart, arteries, blood vessels, lungs, esophagus and other organs in the chest.

Our team is proud to deliver compassionate, patient-centered care throughout Iowa.


Our cardiothoracic surgeons treat the following conditions:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart valve disease
  • Thoracic aortic aneurysm

Cardiothoracic surgery procedures

We offer a full range of cardiothoracic treatments, including:

Coronary artery bypass (Open heart surgery)

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is the most common type of heart surgery to improve blood flow to the heart. Surgeons use CABG to treat people who have severe coronary heart disease (CHD). CHD is a disease in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, reducing oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina.

During CABG, a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected to the blocked coronary artery to go around the blocked portion. This creates a new path for oxygen-rich blood to flow to the heart muscle. Surgeons can bypass multiple blocked coronary arteries during one surgery.

Beating heart or off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery

Off-pump bypass or beating heart surgery can be performed on some patients with CHD. Traditional coronary heart bypass surgery is performed with the assistance of a heart-lung machine, which allows the heart’s beating to be stopped, so the surgeon can operate on a surface which is blood-free and still.

Using off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery, rather than stopping the heart, technological advances and new kinds of operating equipment now allow the surgeon to stabilize portions of the heart during surgery. With a particular area of the heart stabilized, the surgeon can bypass the blocked artery in a highly controlled operative environment. Meanwhile, the rest of the heart keeps pumping and circulating blood to the body.

Heart valve repair or replacement

For the heart to work well, blood must flow in only one direction. The heart's valves make this possible. Healthy valves open and close in a precise, controlling blood flow through the heart, using a set of flaps called leaflets. The leaflets open to allow blood to pass from one heart chamber into another or into the arteries. Then the leaflets close tightly to stop blood from flowing backward.

Surgery can repair or replace leaflets that don't open as wide or close as tightly as they should. This can cause blood to leak back into the heart chambers, rather than only moving forward into the arteries as it should.

Repair surgery mends the valve to work better, and replacement surgery removes the diseased valve with a new valve, either mechanical (TAVR) or biologic.

Using advance techniques and technology, the surgeon can repair the tissue of the damaged valve by means of minimally invasive heart surgery through small incisions in the right side of the chest, as an alternative to open-heart surgery. Not everyone is a candidate for minimally invasive heart valve repair, but for those who are, this surgery may result in less pain and a quicker recovery.

Heart pacemaker

A pacemaker is a small device that's placed under the skin of your chest or abdomen to treat an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat). Wires connect the pacemaker to your heart chambers. The device uses low-energy electrical pulses to control your heart rhythm. Most pacemakers have a sensor that starts the device only if your heart rhythm is abnormal.

Vascular procedures

Vascular intervention is often necessary to treat diseases of the arteries that have blockages. There are a variety of treatment options including medical treatment, minimally invasive procedures with stents or balloons to open arteries, and surgical bypass surgery if necessary. Individuals suffering from pain in the hip, thigh or calf when walking that improves with rest, or have non-healing wounds on their feet may be experiencing the symptoms of restricted blood flow.

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