WellSpan Welcomes Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery Expert to Lead Cardiovascular Surgery Team

Friday, May 4, 2018

With three decades of experience, Giovanni Ciuffo, MD, has built a reputation as an expert in minimally invasive heart surgery and “bloodless” heart surgery, which reduces blood loss and spares patients from the need to receive blood transfusions during their procedure.

Now, Dr. Ciuffo is leading WellSpan’s team of highly skilled cardiovascular surgeons and strengthening the level of advanced specialty care available to heart patients in central Pennsylvania. He joined WellSpan in April as Chair of Cardiovascular Surgery at WellSpan York Hospital and Director of Cardiovascular Surgery for WellSpan Health.

However, Dr. Ciuffo is best known for his minimally invasive heart surgery — which involves a small incision for some major heart surgeries as opposed to a sternotomy or separating the rib cage — and bloodless heart surgery, which does not require major blood loss or subsequent blood transfusions.

The minimally invasive techniques employed by Dr. Ciuffo are ones that he says are patient-centered, allowing patients to recover faster “with more energy and stamina and the ability to enjoy being with their family and friends.”

Dr. Ciuffo’s expertise in minimally invasive heart surgery and bloodless heart surgery is the result of his dedication to the development and improvement of both techniques from the beginning of his career.

Following his surgical training, Dr. Ciuffo furthered his experience in blood-sparing techniques, high-risk cardiac surgery, minimally invasive heart surgery, and heart failure and atrial fibrillation surgery.

Dr. Ciuffo then received an opportunity he could not pass up: “I volunteered to go back to Italy on an international assignment to set up and implement an active cardiac surgery and transplant program in Sicily and another in Cairo, Egypt, in cooperation with the local governments and ministries of health.”

After he completed his international mission, he returned to New York City, where he further developed and refined his techniques in minimally invasive coronary and valve surgery. These techniques and protocols can produce excellent results and greatly improved quality of life in even the sickest and oldest patient population.

Dr. Ciuffo also performs other challenging procedures, such as minimally invasive aortic and mitral valve surgery. These state-of-the-art surgical procedures are performed through a small incision on the chest wall, right over the valve to be repaired or replaced. The result is a procedure completed with a great level of accuracy, no cutting of any chest bone, less postoperative pain, greatly diminished transfusion requirements and wound problems, a quicker recovery, and excellent cosmetic results.

“This approach can also be applied to many other complex procedures, including the repair of atrial septal defects and ventricular septal defects, cardiac tumor excisions, aortic aneurysm repairs, and procedures related to other cardiac conditions,” Dr. Ciuffo notes.

These techniques are also available to coronary patients through minimally invasive coronary bypass procedures known as MIDCAB and MICS CABG. These procedures are carried out on the beating heart, without the use of the heart-lung machine. In addition, instead of the traditional long midline incision used in most heart surgeries in the U.S., a tiny transverse incision is all that is necessary to access the heart and perform a coronary bypass. After these operations, the patient experiences minimal pain, has only a small surgical scar and can often go home within 48 to 72 hours.

With such renowned skill and precision, it’s surprising to hear that Dr. Ciuffo once thought of another, very different, career path. As a young teen growing up on the Italian island of Sardinia, he thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a welder. But then, at the age of 14, he saw a live broadcast of a heart surgery procedure on television.

“I went into my father’s office and said, ‘Dad, I want to be a heart surgeon.’ He looked at me as though I had two heads,” Dr. Ciuffo says.

As WellSpan’s newest cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Ciuffo is now using his skills to help heart surgery patients in York County and beyond return to their normal lives more quickly.

“There is nothing that gives me more gratification,” he says. “It strikes me every time patients come back to the office with this big smile on their face and say, ‘Thank you, doctor. You made such a difference in my life.’”

To learn more about Dr. Ciuffo and his minimally invasive surgical expertise, visit WellSpan.org/Ciuffo. To make a referral, please call 717-851-6454.