Heart Surgery


Heart Surgery

Our Cardiovascular Surgery Program Is the Most Comprehensive In the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut

Your decision about where to go for heart surgery is an important one. It’s a comfort to know that Vassar Brothers Medical Center (VBMC) offers an experienced cardiovascular team performing the latest advanced procedures and using revolutionary technology to heal you after a heart attack or other cardiovascular challenge and help you get back to doing what you love.

Our cardiovascular surgical team is led by Jason Sperling, MD, FACS, a board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon with special interests in beating heart coronary bypass surgery, atrial fibrillation, minimally invasive valve repair and aortic aneurysm surgery. Our cardiac surgical team demonstrates exceptional expertise in treating heart conditions that require intervention.

Our cardiovascular team is equally skilled both at relatively common procedures and more innovative interventions. Our Vassar Aorta program provides advanced cardiac imaging including advanced aortic MRI and ECG-gated CT scans to render clearer images of the heart while it is beating during a scan as well as 3-D analysis for more accurate measurements of aneurysms and other structures. Our cardiovascular surgeons, new technologies, treatments and research have together improved the quality of life for people with heart disease in our region.

Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is the most common open heart procedure performed in the United States. The operation typically uses a heart-lung machine, which allows surgeons to operate on a still heart. VBMC now performs both on-pump and off-pump, or “beating heart” bypass, in which a device is used to stabilize the surface of the heart near the coronary artery instead of relying on the heart-lung machine to circulate blood in the body. For certain patients, off-pump may be more appropriate, reducing the additional risk of having the heart stopped during surgery. An additional benefit to off-pump heart bypass is that patients may have fewer post-operative complications such as stroke, kidney injury and transfusion.

Outstanding Outcomes

Trust your heart to our region’s leader in cardiovascular care, one that is also nationally recognized for performance and quality. Heart surgery at Vassar Brothers Medical Center has consistently excellent statistics for many surgical procedures, including:

  • Low need for a further hospital admission after coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) of 7.06 percent compared to the New York State Department of Health average of 13.18 percent.*
  • Zero percent infections.**
  • One hundred percent survival for heart valve procedures.**
  • Our patients place us in the 99th percentile for “MD Courtesy and Respect” and “Overall Quality of Care.”***

Our entire team is proud of our achievements, but most of all we are honored that people in our community no longer need to travel to New York City or Albany for diagnostic accuracy, surgical expertise and the highest level of heart care. You and your family can now trust your heart to us and stay close to home.

*NYS DOH Adult Cardiac Surgery Report 2013-2015, published March 2018
**STS National Adult Cardiac Database 2017 Harvest 4 site report images
***HCAHPS, Professional Research Consultants National Client Database, 2017

Why Choose Us?

  • Our team of highly experienced and highly trained heart and vascular doctors, interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses and staff work together to create the leading cardiovascular program in the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut.
  • Whether at the bedside, in the operating room or in the catheterization lab, you receive innovative techniques and cutting-edge technologies you used to have to leave the area to find.
  • Our specialized Vassar Aorta program provides genetic testing, advanced diagnostic imaging and the broadest range of surgical treatments as well as cutting-edge research to improve the quality of life for patients with aortic disease.
  • Eligible patients have access to minimally invasive approaches to valve surgery and a high likelihood of valve repair as opposed to replacement.
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center is the first and only provider in the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut to offer the left atrial appendage occlusion device, a permanent implant that reduces the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, who are unable to take blood thinners.
  • Our team has special expertise in treating atrial fibrillation to restore normal rhythm.
  • The structural heart team at Vassar Brothers Medical Center is the first and only provider in the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut to offer Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). Our experienced team has performed more than a hundred of these minimally invasive procedures (mostly through a small puncture in the groin, without the need for surgery) to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly (aortic stenosis).
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center and The Heart Center were the first in the region to offer leadless pacemakers that can be quickly and simply implanted by catheter in the heart’s left ventricle.
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center was recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s highest performing hospitals for heart failure and heart bypass surgery (2017–2018).
  • Our entire cardiovascular team — cardiothoracic and cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, diagnostic imaging and testing specialists, nurses, physician assistants, cardiac catheterization laboratory assistants, and medical assistants — takes pride in our focus on each patient — you or your loved one — treating each as an individual with specific need.

Conditions We Treat

  • Adult congenital heart disease
  • Aortic aneurysms – our surgeons perform open surgery for the aortic root (including a special operation called the David procedure) and aortic arch, as well as endovascular (stent) procedures for arch and descending aortic pathology
  • Aortic dissections – a surgical emergency that must be treated promptly; these typically occur as a consequence of untreated aortic aneurysms with or without genetic syndromes
  • Aortic valve disease – both replacement (blocked valves) and repair (leaking valves), including minimally invasive approaches
  • Atrial fibrillation – including treatment of persistent forms of atrial fibrillation that do not typically respond to drugs or catheter ablation alone, using new, minimally invasive hybrid techniques
  • Atrial septal defect (ASD)
  • Chronic total coronary occlusions – also known as a complete blockage
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Coronary bypass surgerya surgical procedure to bypass a severely blocked artery in your heart and allow blood to flow through your heart more freely.  Advanced care includes off-pump (beating heart) coronary bypass and the use of multiple arteries (as opposed to veins) for bypasses, which last longer and are associated with prolonged survival.
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)this unique, highly specialized treatment is a modified heart-lung machine that does the work of a failing heart and lungs, giving them a chance to rest as you or your family member heals. This is a new level of care that can be a bridge to recovery, or to further long-term treatments. ECMO is a life-saving device that is available right here in the Mid-Hudson Valley and northwestern Connecticut.
  • Heart valve repairthe gold standard for leaking valves as opposed to replacement, since valve repairs can provide a permanent fix for the patient’s lifetime.
  • Heart valve replacement – when valve repair isn’t possible, the damaged valve is replaced by an artificial (prosthetic) valve, either a tissue valve (i.e., cow or pig tissue) or mechanical (metal).
  • Mitral valve regurgitation – a very common valve disorder in clinical practice associated with shortness of breath with exercise, fatigue, and certain heart rhythm disorders.  Most leaking valves can be repaired using minimally invasive techniques.
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO) (hole in the heart) – most often closed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory using a catheter-based implant.
  • Pulmonary embolism – in extreme cases, large central pulmonary embolism can be extracted surgically to relieve the obstruction of blood flow to the lungs, and to prevent long-term complications.
  • Pulmonic valve – a rare need for surgical intervention, most often in patients who underwent heart surgery as infants or children.
  • Tricuspid valve disease – tricuspid valves often leak as a consequence of either mitral valve disease or pacemaker implantation and can be repaired at the same time as mitral surgery or independently.
  • Ventricular defect –  a life-threatening complication of heart attack that often requires mechanical support of the failing ventricles and highly specialized surgery.

Treatment and Technology

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) repair
  • Balloon aortic valvuloplasty
  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) – can be performed with or without heart-lung machines. For elderly or very ill patients in need of coronary artery bypass grafting, our cardiovascular team can perform CABG without using a heart-lung machine — a “beating heart” procedure — causing less stress for the heart and quicker recovery times.
  • Complex aortic arch and ascending aorta surgery
  • Endovascular stent graft repair
  • Hybrid bypass-stent procedures
  • Left atrial appendage occlusion device
  • MitraClip® – Transcatheter mitral valve repair
  • Paravalvular leak closures
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure          
  • Procedures for aneurysm patients who have had prior open heart surgery
  • Pulmonary embolism catheter-based techniques
  • Risk reduction and medication management
  • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
  • Valve-sparing David procedure – surgeons replace the aortic root and re-implant the aortic valve into the replacement graft. The David procedure spares otherwise healthy aortic valves and helps you or your loved one avoid lifelong use of blood thinners.