Advanced Heart Valve Surgery Options at WellSpan Health

By Bill Colrus
Monday, May 11, 2020

When a patient’s heart valves become leaky or stiff, the heart has to work harder to deliver blood where it needs to go. The highly skilled cardiovascular surgeons, clinicians and staff at WellSpan York Hospital and WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital provide these patients with the most effective heart valve surgery options.

Many valve surgeries are performed through an open procedure (an incision in the chest and splitting the sternum) in an operating room.

For patients dealing with failure of heart valve function due to infection or degenerative disease, treatment is a necessity. If left untreated, the average survival rate of those suffering from severe aortic stenosis ranges from only 50% after two years to a mere 20% after five years.

While Mark Burlingame, MD, board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon at WellSpan, says most of his cases involve performing mitral valve replacement or repair, he and his fellow surgeons are also experts in other types of valve of surgeries, including tricuspid valve repair, aortic valve replacement and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Dr. Burlingame says that TAVR, which can be performed in a minimally invasive fashion via a small anterior thoracotomy or mini upper sternotomy, “has taken over the aortic valve world.”

“Two years ago, there were approximately 70,000 aortic valve replacements in the United States, 50,000 of which were TAVR,” he says. “If that trend continues, 90% of aortic valve replacements will be TAVRs.”

And it’s not hard to see why.

According to a recent study published by The New England Journal of Medicine, patients who underwent TAVR had significantly lower rates of death, stroke or rehospitalization after one year than patients who underwent traditional open-heart surgery.

Expert Care Close to Home

While a patient’s prognosis depends largely on his or her condition before surgery, patients with normal heart function who are symptomatic from valvular disease have excellent outcomes with low risk and can typically resume a normal life. When treating patients with preexisting poor heart function and other cardiac issues, Dr. Burlingame and his fellow surgeons aim to prolong their lives and improve quality of life.

“Overall, I would say that valve surgery patients have excellent outcomes with surgery, in general, but patients shouldn’t take it lightly,” Dr. Burlingame says. “[Some interventions involve] open-heart surgery, and I think these patients should have honest discussions with their cardiologists and surgeons if that’s what they’re headed for.”

Just as Dr. Burlingame advises patients to have frank conversations with their physicians, he takes pride in working with patients and their other care providers to help address any of their immediate or long-term concerns. One common concern that he often hears from referring physicians is that patients have to travel to academic facilities great distances away to receive top-tier care. As he explains, that is not the case.

“I think they should try to keep these patients close to home, and patients will appreciate that,” he says. “As long as these patients know that they’re getting the very best care, that’s what’s important.”

To learn more about how WellSpan Health is bringing world-class heart valve surgery options to local patients, visit