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Priming the Pump: Aortic Valve Surgery

There’s never a convenient age for heart surgery. But at Good Samaritan Hospital, J. Michael Smith is using catheter-based procedures to repair the hearts of older patients just in the nick of time.

I’ve wanted to be a heart surgeon since I was 11 years old. I really tried to find other things to like, but I couldn’t find anything I liked as much as surgery. I came to Good Samaritan in 1989 to train. Almost 10 years ago we got our first robot and I realized very quickly I’d have to travel to Europe to learn how to use the technology. That was where I first learned about the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure, and I went back to Europe to study it further. It got approved in the United States in 2011, and we did our first ones in April 2011 and about 30 since.