Heart Surgery

A group of five healthcare providers, all masked and in scrubs, performing a heart surgery on a fully-covered patient.

OHSU’s heart surgery program provides compassionate care for patients with heart disease. Our master surgeons are skilled in leading-edge techniques for simple to complex surgeries.

We offer:

  • A team of experts who work with you to create a customized treatment plan.
  • Minimally invasive procedures, so you can recover quicker and feel better faster.
  • The best emergency care in the region, including emergency surgery for life-threatening conditions.
  • Surgeons with deep experience and skill in complex surgery.
  • The oldest heart transplant program in the region.
  • Clinical trials for access to the newest heart disease treatments.
  • Innovations dating back to the 1950s, when our surgeons developed and performed the first successful heart valve replacement.

World-class care

Our heart surgeons are leaders in their field. They put you at the center of each care decision.

Expertise: We perform hundreds of heart procedures each year, from simple to complex. Our team has special expertise in valve repair and replacement, and treating rare conditions. OHSU’s heart transplant program has performed more than 800 transplants.

A badge graphic that reads "Certified Cardiac Center of Excellence" by Healthcare Accreditation Services Quality & Patient Safety.

National recognition: OHSU is the first institution to be recognized as a Cardiac Center of Excellence by DNV GL.

Research and innovation: Our surgeons are breaking new ground in heart care. At OHSU, you have access to advanced treatments and new technology not available anywhere else in the region. For example, our heart valve team has pioneered many new heart valve techniques and was the first in the world to successfully implant a new valve repair device.

Team-based care: Our surgeons work closely with cardiologists, anesthesiologists, physical therapists and other specialists to manage your condition. We tailor your care to your needs.

Intensive care: High-quality, 24/7 care is important for recovery after heart surgery. We have an ICU staffed by critical care experts who specialize in caring for cardiac surgery patients.

Safer surgery: When we operate on your heart, it is important to keep blood flowing to the rest of your body. OHSU uses the most advanced technology available to make sure your heart, lungs and the rest of your body are protected during delicate heart procedures.

Ongoing support: We’ll communicate with your health care team every step of the way. We’ll give them details of your procedure and make sure your recovery is on track. Our team also includes pharmacists, psychiatrists and social workers who offer counseling and emotional support for you and your family.

What to expect

OHSU’s heart surgery team puts you at the center of our care. We’ll review all your options with you, including minimally invasive procedures and clinical trials. Together, we will create a treatment plan just for you.

Getting care at OHSU

Initial evaluation: At your first visit, our team will meet with you to evaluate your heart condition. We may do blood tests, chest X-rays or a stress test. For a stress test, you exercise or take medicine to make your heart work harder so we can see how it responds.

Clinical trials: These research studies give our patients access to the latest treatments for heart disease. If you are eligible to participate in a trial, we will discuss it with you.

Emergency care: If you have a life-threatening condition and need immediate surgery, we are ready to care for you 24/7. OHSU has one of the region’s few Level 1 trauma centers. Our Chest Pain Center can quickly find out if you are having a heart attack. After surgery, you will recover in our intensive care unit dedicated to heart surgery patients.

Heart surgery techniques

If your treatment plan includes surgery, our team is here for you. Our excellent results have led to our recognition as Oregon’s top heart surgery hospital. We treat many conditions, including coronary artery disease, valve disease, aneurysm and heart failure.

We are experts in open heart surgery, as well as techniques that don’t require major surgery or chest incisions (cuts). We offer the widest variety of minimally invasive treatment options in Oregon. In fact, our team helped invent some of the advanced procedures below.

What is it? Our surgeons make an incision over your sternum. This is called a sternotomy. They will likely need to spread open your sternum so they can operate on your heart.

Why would you need it? Though many conditions can now be treated with minimally invasive options, some conditions do require open-heart surgery. The most common operation is coronary artery bypass surgery.

Coronary artery bypass surgery is a type of open heart surgery that restores blood flow to the heart. Sometimes an artery that supplies your heart is severely diseased or blocked. If blood can’t flow through the artery, you may have chest pain or shortness of breath. Untreated, this could be life-threatening.

How CABG works: We make an incision in your chest and spread open your rib cage. We take a healthy vein or artery from your leg, arm or chest. This is called a graft. We use the healthy graft to connect blood vessels near the blocked or diseased area. This is called a bypass. Think of it as a new highway that lets your blood detour around the blocked artery.

Safety procedures: During the surgery, our team will use state-of-the-art technology to keep you safe. You may need a heart-lung bypass pump that will breathe and pump blood for you during the surgery. In some cases, our surgical team will operate while your heart is still beating. This is called off-pump coronary artery bypass graft surgery (OPCAB).

Other open heart surgery techniques include:

Heart pump implants: For severe heart failure, we may implant a small pump in your chest. When your heart muscle weakens, these devices can pump blood and oxygen through your body. You may need one while you wait for a heart transplant. Our surgeons have successfully implanted more than 200 heart pumps.

Heart transplant: A heart transplant is a major surgery for severe heart failure. We will replace your damaged heart with a healthy heart from a donor. OHSU has the largest heart transplant program in the region. Our team has completed more than 800 transplants, giving us uncommon expertise. We also offer a full range of resources to help you prepare and recover. Our recovery services include physical therapy, heart-healthy nutrition plans and palliative care.

What is it? This minimally invasive procedure uses a catheter (thin tube) inserted through a small incision in your leg, groin or abdomen. Our surgeons thread the catheter through your blood vessels to reach your heart. This lets us to repair or replace parts of your heart without needing to make large incisions. Because this type of surgery is minimally invasive, you can expect to recover faster and have fewer complications.

Why would you need it? Transcatheter surgery can be used to treat heart valve disease and aortic aneurysm. OHSU is the only medical center in Oregon that can replace any of the heart’s valves without the need for a chest incision.

Types of transcatheter surgery include:

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR): TAVR is a way to replace the aortic valve without open-heart surgery. OHSU was the first medical center on the West Coast to use this innovative approach. A new valve is placed inside your natural aortic valve, where it expands and pushes the faulty valve aside. After your surgery, our team will continue to monitor your heart through follow-up exams that include X-rays and blood tests.

Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) or thoracic endovascular aneurysm repair (TEVAR): Our team uses a catheter to place a stent graft (a flexible wire frame sewn on a specially woven fabric tube) inside the weak part of your aorta. This reduces pressure and lowers the risk that an aneurysm will burst. We also operate on aneurysms that have already burst. Our doctors can often do EVAR without general anesthesia. This means we use local anesthetic to numb the area of the procedure, so you do not feel pain or discomfort. You also get medication to help you relax.

What is it? Our surgeons always make the smallest incision possible to successfully complete your surgery. Often they can use alternatives to open-heart surgery that are less invasive but still allow our team to reach your heart. This means less pain after surgery and a quicker recovery.

  • Mini thorcotomy: We make a small incision in your chest between your ribs.
  • Partial sternotomy: We make a smaller incision above your sternum than we would for open-heart surgery.

Why would you need it? We may use these approaches to treat heart valve disease. They can also be used to implant a device to treat heart failure. These mechanical devices regulate your heart rhythm or monitor how your heart is working.

Learn more

For patients

Call 503-494-7820 to:

  • Request an appointment
  • Seek a second opinion
  • Ask questions


Physicians Pavilion
3270 S.W. Pavilion Loop
Portland, Oregon 97239
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Refer a patient

‘Night-and-day difference’

A photo of OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute patient Dennis Eggers.

Dennis Eggers turned to OHSU to fix his leaky heart valve using a first-of-its-kind, minimally invasive approach. See how it changed his life.