Cardiothoracic surgeons in Gainesville, Florida

At The Heart & Vascular Center of North Florida Regional Medical Center, we offer advanced surgical care for patients with heart disease. Our cardiovascular surgical team includes board-certified surgeons, registered nurses and technicians with advanced training and a dedication to individualized patient care.

The cardiac surgery team at our hospital performs between 500 and 600 procedures every year. While some patients only need one surgery, others may need more than one type of procedure. We provide compassionate, expert care throughout each patient's entire treatment plan.

For more information about our cardiac surgery services, please call our Consult-A-Nurse® team at (352) 333-4300.

Interventional cardiology procedures

Interventional cardiology procedures may be used to diagnose and/or treat a cardiac condition. These procedures are considered minimally invasive because they do not involve open-heart surgery.

Interventional cardiology procedures are performed in our cardiac catheterization lab (cardiac cath lab) by a cardiologist who is supported by our cath lab team. We use advanced technology to perform tests and treatments for conditions that block blood flow through the arteries and other blood vessels.

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Diagnostic catheterization

If a patient's symptoms and diagnostic test results indicate a possible coronary artery disease diagnosis, they may be scheduled for a diagnostic catheterization. During this procedure, the cardiologist inserts a tiny, hollow tube (called a catheter) into an artery in the arm, groin or wrist.

The cardiologist will inject a dye into the arteries to visualize blood flow in the arteries and identify if any blockages are present.

Balloon angioplasty and coronary stenting

This procedure, often performed immediately following a heart catheterization, allows a doctor to insert a small, balloon-tipped catheter into the blocked area of an artery. The doctor then inflates the balloon to press the plaque that is causing the blockage against the artery walls.

Once the plaque has been moved out of the way, blood is able to flow freely through the artery. After an artery is reopened, it may need additional help to stay open. For some patients, a stent may be placed inside the artery wall to permanently hold open the artery.

Interventional procedures peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

Our cardiologists perform diagnostic and interventional procedures for patients with PAD, also called peripheral vascular disease. Patients with PAD may experience blockages of blood vessels away from the heart, such as in the upper and lower extremities. Patients with blocked blood vessels in the legs can experience significant pain and risk developing non-healing wounds.

We perform diagnostic and peripheral interventional procedures to open up these blockages. If left untreated, patients with PAD are at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Cardiac surgery

Our cardiac surgeons perform a variety of surgeries to treat heart conditions and diseases. Our operating rooms are equipped with advanced technology and heart-lung machines, so we can perform open-heart procedures safely and effectively.

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Valve surgery

Blood is pumped through the heart in a single direction, which is facilitated by the heart's valves opening and closing with every heartbeat. When a valve becomes diseased or stops functioning properly, valve repair or replacement surgery is often needed.

Damage to the heart's valves can be caused by several factors, such as infection or congenital abnormalities. These conditions can lead to scarring or thickening of the heart's valves, which affects the valves' abilities to open and close properly. This means the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body, and over time, this extra work puts a strain on the heart.

Surgical repair or replacement of a damaged valve will allow the heart to pump efficiently and reduce the additional strain. Depending on a patient's condition, it may be necessary to replace a damaged valve with an artificial valve.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

The TAVR procedure is a minimally invasive treatment used to replace a patient's aortic valve without removing the old, damaged valve. TAVR is an option for patients with severe aortic stenosis who may be too high risk for open-heart valve replacement surgery.

Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG)

A CABG procedure is a surgical option for patients with severe coronary artery disease that are experiencing decreased blood flow to the heart. This is often the result of a condition called atherosclerosis—the hardening of the coronary arteries due to a buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries.

CABG is used to improve blood flow to the heart by bypassing the blockage in the coronary artery. The surgeon will harvest a healthy artery or vein from the body and connect it to the blocked coronary artery. The grafted artery or vein bypasses the blocked portion of the artery.

Our surgeons have achieved complication rates significantly lower than the national average and have reduced the time a patient spends on a heart-lung machine during surgery. This means patients benefit from a faster recovery and improved outcomes.

Repair of congenital heart abnormalities

A congenital heart abnormality is a structural problem that is present at birth. Most of the time, these problems are repaired during infancy or early childhood. However, sometimes symptoms do not present themselves until adulthood. We offer treatment to adults experiencing these later-in-life symptoms.

We treat patients with a patent foramen ovale (PFO), which is a hole in the septum of the heart that did not close properly following birth. Our cardiologists use different devices to close a PFO depending on the size and location of the opening.

Our cardiologists also treat patients with atrial septal defects (ASD)—another type of congenital heart abnormality. During the procedure to close an ASD, the doctor inserts a catheter into a vein and threads it to the opening in the heart. The catheter is fitted with a tiny, umbrella-like device that is pushed out and positioned to plug the hole in the heart. Normal tissue will begin to grow over the device within six months.

If needed, PFOs and ASDs can be closed by our surgeons during another cardiac procedure, such as a CABG, valve repair or replacement or heart arrhythmia surgery.

Vascular surgery

Our surgeons offer expert treatment for patients with vascular disease. Our surgical treatments include traditional open surgery and minimally invasive endovascular procedures, such as:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair
  • Atherosclerosis endarterectomy
  • Carotid endarterectomy
  • Carotid artery stenting
  • Bypass surgery
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Preparing for a cath lab procedure

Patients coming to our hospital from an outside referral will receive instructions from their provider prior to the procedure. All patients will be contacted by our cardiac cath lab team at least one day prior to their procedure. This is to ensure all questions are answered and to provide instructions on coming to the cath lab.

For questions or directions to our cath lab, please call (352) 333-4925.

Coming to our hospital for surgery

Parking is free on the day of surgery and is available in the garage on the west side of the hospital across from the emergency room (ER). Valet parking is also available at the main entrance.

On the day of surgery, please arrive at the main hospital entrance and take the elevators, located on your right, to the third floor lobby and proceed to check-in at the registration desk.

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What to expect during the cardiovascular surgery process

We want you to feel prepared for your open-heart surgery. Below we have outlined what you can expect before, during and after your surgery.

Before your surgery

Prior to surgery, you will be directed to our Business Office inside North Florida Regional Medical Center to complete a pre-admission visit. This visit may be completed up to 30 days prior to your surgery. The Business Office is located near the hospital's main entrance and is open Monday through Friday from 6:00am to 6:00pm.

After visiting the Business Office, you will be escorted to the surgery center waiting room where you will complete some additional paperwork. You will be called by one of our registered nurses to complete the pre-admission process.

The RN will review your forms and ask for any additional information, if needed. They will also conduct any preoperative testing, such as X-rays, electrocardiograms or blood tests, and review your preoperative instructions with you. You must follow these preoperative instructions exactly or your surgery could be delayed or canceled. You will be provided a video to help explain what to expect during your postoperative care.

On the evening prior to surgery and the morning of surgery, you will need to bathe with a special soap. Please do not shave. A surgical shave will be completed within two hours prior to surgery to prevent infection. On the morning of surgery, you will be given an operative permit to sign that indicates your surgeon and procedure.

Inpatient surgical preparation

If you are spending the night in the hospital prior to surgery, you will begin your surgical preparation the day before surgery. You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire for your anesthesiologist. You will be visited by an anesthesiologist who will explain what medications they will use for sedation during surgery.

A critical care nurse will visit you the day before surgery to explain the immediate postoperative care you will receive while in the Critical Care Unit (CCU). A respiratory therapist is also available to explain the use of an incentive spirometer—breathing device used to increase lung function.

On the morning of surgery, you will be shaved as mandated by your surgeon. Inpatients will also receive a preoperative permit to sign with their surgeon's name and procedure.

Day of surgery

On the morning of surgery, you will take another shower, and you will be allowed to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth as long as you do not swallow any water. Please leave all jewelry, glasses and other valuable items at home. The CCU has limited space for personal belongings, so we ask that you only bring your immediate necessities.

If you are already an inpatient, please save your bath basin, bedpan, emesis basin and urinal so they can be sent to the CCU. All nail polish must be removed from the fingers and toes. If you wear dentures, please consult with your anesthesiologist to see if you can wear them during the procedure.

Before you are taken to the operating room (OR), you will be asked to empty your bladder. You will then be given two injections of medication to make you feel drowsy. After receiving the medication, the side rails on your patient bed will be put up, and you will be asked to remain in your bed. Please use the nurse call button if you need anything.

You will be taken to the OR one hour prior to surgery. You will be met by an anesthesiologist in the patient holding area, and they will insert an intravenous (IV) line and begin preparing you for surgery. The surgical nurse will be available to answer any questions you may have. Several other patients may be present in the waiting area at the same time.

Visiting the CCU

If you are taken to a semi-private room, family members will be allowed to visit you the morning of your surgery. They can use the side entrance of the hospital if they arrive prior to 6:30am. We recommend that family members who want to visit come as early as two hours before surgery. Patients are typically admitted to the OR one hour before their scheduled procedure.

Family members will be shown to the waiting room, located next to the OR. Open-heart surgery may take anywhere between three to five hours. We ask that family members inform our receptionist of their whereabouts if they leave the waiting area.

After surgery

After surgery, you will be taken directly to the CCU where you will remain for 18 to 24 hours. Some patients may stay in the CCU for longer depending on their progress. When you arrive in the CCU, you will be sedated from the anesthesia. During your stay, a nurse will routinely check your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory function. You will remain connected to a heart monitor through pads attached to your chest with electrode wires.

When you begin to wake up, you will notice various machines connected to you. You will be on a respirator that works to ventilate your lungs until you are awake enough to breathe on your own. Most patients will remain on a respirator for four to six hours. While on a respirator, you will be unable to eat or drink, so medications and fluids will be delivered through your IV.

During surgery, a tube is placed in the bladder to drain your urine. This tube will remain in place for about two days following surgery.

You will have two drainage tubes in your chest connected to a suction device that drains excess fluid from around your heart. Your chest incision will be covered with a large dressing. If you have a leg incision, it will also be covered.

During the early to late evening, your respirator and breathing tube may be removed if you are fully awake and able to breathe on your own. You may experience hoarseness and a sore throat following the removal of the tube, but talking should not be difficult. You will be given an oxygen mask to help increase the levels of oxygen in your blood and loosen secretions in the lungs.

The tube in your stomach and any wrist restraints will be removed after the breathing tube is taken out. You will be allowed to drink small amounts of fluids.

Your nurse will continue to monitor your vital signs and assist you every two hours with deep breathing and coughing using the incentive spirometer. This is critical to clear the lungs of secretions.

As with any surgery, you can expect a certain amount of pain. Pain medication is frequently delivered, but you should not expect to be completely pain-free.

You will be monitored by two nurses during a 24-hour period.

First day after surgery

The morning after surgery, your surgeon will visit to check on your progress. After their visit, you will be given a liquid breakfast. Your nurse will then assist you in sitting up and dangling your legs over the side of the bed. They will help you move to sit in a chair.

Your nurse will continue to guide you in deep breathing and coughing exercises throughout the day. Your vital signs will need to be checked less frequently, and you will have longer periods of rest.

As the day progresses, the administration of your IV fluids will be slowed and/or discontinued as you begin to drink adequate amounts of liquids. A heparin lock (needle in the vein allowing for medication and fluid administration) will remain in place. You may be given solid food for lunch. Your appetite will increase as you continue to eat. Adequate nutritional intake is critical for healing.

By the early afternoon, you will be walking short distances in the CCU. Pain medicine will continue to be administered to minimize your discomfort. Your walking distance will gradually increase and, by the evening, you will be walking the full length of the hall. The purpose of moving about so soon after surgery is to ensure that circulation, lung expansion and bowel function return to normal as soon as possible.

Visiting after surgery

Once your vital signs have been taken and you have been connected to the monitoring equipment, your family will be allowed to visit you briefly. You may not yet be completely awake or fully aware of their presence.

Visiting hours for family members are every two hours on the odd hour. No visitors are allowed at 7:00am and 7:00pm. Two family members may visit at a time for approximately 15 minutes.

Second day after surgery

On the second day after surgery, you will again be visited by your surgeon in the morning. Your chest tubes may be removed at this time. Your nurse will remove the catheter from your bladder and provide instructions for your transfer to the second floor.

When you arrive on the second floor, a nurse will connect you to monitoring equipment that transmits to the nurses' station. Your heart rhythm will continue to be monitored for a few days.

You will continue to have a heparin lock in your arm for vein access, if needed, and your nurse will record your urine output and the fluids you take in. You will also be weighed each morning.

The nurses on the second floor will continue your coughing and breathing exercises with the incentive spirometer. This helps avoid complications, such as pneumonia.

You may experience mild constipation after surgery due to the slow, decreased movement of your stomach and intestines while they were sedated during surgery. You will be given a laxative and/or stool softener to promote normal bowel function. Please notify your nurse if you have not had a bowel movement for two to three days after receiving a laxative.

You will not be allowed to shower until your staples and/or stitches are removed—approximately five days after surgery. Until this time, you will be assisted with your morning bath.

After a few days, you may only retain vague memories of being in the CCU, or you may not recall events in the CCU. This is normal and due to the anesthesia effect after surgery and the pain medication you were provided in the CCU.

Following your transfer out of the CCU, your doctor will want you to walk in the hall three or four times a day. A nurse from our cardiac rehabilitation program will visit you once a day to monitor and assist with your walking. They will also inform you if you need to wear an oxygen mask while walking.

Continuing your inpatient recovery

All postoperative activities should be done slowly and for short periods of time. Each activity should be followed by a period of rest. Be sure to breathe normally throughout each activity, and do not hold your breath. Be sure to follow these instructions during your recovery:

  • Don't bend over to pick something off the floor.
  • Don't lift heavy items or move furniture.
  • Don't perform isometric exercises (contracting or tensing of the muscles without moving your body while sitting or lying down).
  • Don't strain with bowel movements.

If you experience any shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, pain or perspiration, stop whatever you are doing and notify a nurse.

It is not unusual to notice swelling in the hands, legs and ankles after surgery. To decrease swelling, elevate your feet on a stool while sitting. Moving your feet while lying down or sitting will also help reduce swelling. Try not to cross your legs, as it is bad for circulation.

You may experience a tight, drawing-in sensation in your incisions. This is part of the normal healing process. While walking, keep your back and shoulders straight, and let your arms move naturally at your sides. To prevent a stiff neck, bend your head from side to side three to four times several times a day.

Prior to discharge

Before you are discharged from the hospital, one of our cardiac rehabilitation nurses will provide you and your family with instructions on:

  • Activity limitations
  • Incision scarring
  • Progressive walking at home
  • Risk factors for heart disease
  • Signs to report to the doctor

A dietitian will provide information on a cardiac diet, which will assist you and your family in continuing your recovery at home.

Please follow all instructions provided to you carefully and ask questions when needed.