News Stories

Meet the Heart Valve Disease Team

When it comes to the treatment of valvular heart disease, expert collaboration is critical in ensuring excellence in patient care. To that end, a team of Washington University cardiac surgeons, general and interventional cardiologists, cardiac nurses and sonographers work together within the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital Heart & Vascular Center.

The Heart Valve Disease team’s mission is twofold: the team is dedicated to advancing the understanding of valvular diseases through critical research and utilizing the advancements to provide outstanding care for patients with simple and complex valvular diseases.

“Patients who arrive at our clinics quickly realize they are in great hands,” says Ralph Damiano, Jr., MD, Evarts A. Graham Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and “Our multidisciplinary team works together to develop a personalized plan of care that combine clinical, interventional and surgical treatments to a number of heart valve conditions.”

The team’s cardiologists are key members in the diagnosis and non-surgical management of heart valve disease and work together with cardiac surgeons to determine the best course of action if procedures are recommended.

The multidisciplinary team treats conditions that affects any of the heart’s four valves (aortic mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid valves), including:

  • Acquired valve disease (heart valve problems that develop due to infection or injury)
  • Bicuspid aortic valve (a congenital condition when the aortic valve only has two flaps instead of three)
  • Regurgitation or leaking heart valves (when blood flows backward through the valve, most often the mitral valve)
  • Stenosis (stiffening of the valves)
  • Tricuspid valve annulus dilation (a leaky tricuspid valve)
  • Valvular prolapse (leaky heart valve that doesn’t close efficiently)

The Heart & Vascular Center’s team have pioneered advanced treatments for heart valve diseases that can be conducted without the need for open-heart surgery. Damiano, who serves as Co-Chair of the Heart & Vascular Center and Alan Zajarias, MD, interventional cardiologist and Co-Director of the Center for Valvular Heart Disease, performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) surgery at Washington University in 2008. The surgery was proctored by French interventionist Alan Criber, MD, who is credited as the first person to ever perform the procedure in 2002.

“Since the institution’s first TAVR procedure, our team has gone on to perform over 1,600 more percutaneous valve replacements,” says Spencer Melby, MD, Associate Professor of Cardiac Surgery. “No other center in the region can come close to the output provided by our excellent team.”

The team is actively involved in several clinical trials which gives patients access to the latest in procedural, biological, pharmaceutical and technological interventions for heart valve diseases.

The multidisciplinary team at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital Heart & Vascular Center is consistently regarded for its excellence in patient care and outcomes. Barnes-Jewish Hospital is ranked 37th in the nation in cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News and World Report. Most recently, the hospital received the 2021 Mitral Valve Repair Reference Center Award for its superior record of superior clinical outcomes and commitment to reporting quality and outcomes metrics for mitral valve surgery.

Washington University Heart Valve Surgeons

The Heart & Vascular Center has expanded its clinical reach throughout the St. Louis region. The multidisciplinary team sees patients in the Center for Advanced Medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Barnes-Jewish West County and South County locations. Munfakh and Ray also treat patients at Christian Hospital.

To learn more about Barnes-Jewish Hospital and make an appointment with its team of dedicated Washington University cardiac surgeons, please call 888-230-8832 or visit the Heart & Vascular Center’s website.