Transplant Patient Reunites with Care Team

by Columbia Surgery on January 30, 2014

Twenty years after receiving a heart and double-lung transplant at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, grateful patient Sean Kunzli and his family came to New York City for a celebratory reunion with his surgeon, Craig R. Smith, MD, and the team that performed this lifesaving surgery. Born with congenital heart disease, Mr. Kunzli underwent the risky and rare transplant in December 1993. Today, Mr. Kunzli is healthy and, according to Dr. Smith, one of the longest surviving recipients of a heart and double-lung transplant.


Sheila Ryan, Mr. Kunzli’s mother; John Siceloff and his wife, Birgit Jorgensen, NP, who was a transplant coordinator at NYP/Columbia in 1993 and is now at NYP/Weill Cornell; Deborah Songailo-Cottrill, Mr. Kunzli’s cousin; Dr. Craig R. Smith, Surgeon-in-Chief, NYP/Columbia; Sean Kunzli; Chelsea Kunzli, Mr. Kunzli’s daughter; Wendy Kunzli-Schaub, Mr. Kunzli’s sister; and Dr. Mark E. Ginsburg, Associate Director of Thoracic Surgery, NYP/Columbia

*Courtesy NY Press January 2014*


Surgery for Aortic Stenosis: PARTNER Trial Update

by Columbia Surgery on January 25, 2014

Results from PARTNER trial Cohort B show that patients with severe aortic stenosis who are unable to undergo traditional surgery for technical reasons fared better with transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) than patients who were just too sick to undergo valve surgery.

Heart Valve CenterApproximately 300,000 Americans have aortic stenosis, or narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart. Until recently, treatment options included medical therapy and surgery to replace the valve through a traditional open heart approach. In contrast to traditional surgery, TAVR entails replacing the valve by using a catheter that is advanced into the heart through a small incision in the groin. Craig R. Smith, MD, Chair, Department of Surgery, is Principal Investigator of the 26-center PARTNER trial, which began in 2007 and is considered one of the most important studies of this therapy. Co-Principal Investigators include Mathew R. Williams, MD, and Susheel Kodali, MD, Co-directors of the Heart Valve Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

TAVR provides an important therapeutic option for patients who are ineligible for surgery for technical reasons such as heavy calcification of the aorta, chest wall deformity, prior radiation to the chest, or potential damage to previous bypass graft. Patients may also be ineligible for surgery because they are simply too sick or frail to withstand open heart surgery.

In an article published in, Dr. Ajay Kirtane, an interventional cardiologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, explains, “We often struggle to determine which patients to treat with TAVR, and to identify which patients might not do as well.” He says that the results published October 23, 2013 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology show that “Although there were many reasons for inoperability, patients with technical issues for inoperability that would render surgical AVR more complex or difficult fared better overall with TAVR than did patients who in some respects were just too sick for surgical aortic valve replacement.”

So far, the PARTNER trial has also found that patients undergoing TAVR have the same one-year survival rates as high-risk patients who undergo surgical valve replacement. Two-year survival rates also confirmed TAVR’s efficacy in patients who were high risk for surgery. As defined in the trial, “high risk” comprises 5-15% of the total population undergoing surgical aortic valve replacement.

Learn more about TAVR for Aortic Stenosis, find information about enrollment in the PARTNER trial, and watch videos explaining the procedure at the Heart Valve Center.


NYP/Columbia Physicians Major Participants in Cardiovascular Conference

December 3, 2012

TweetThe world’s largest and most important educational meeting specializing in interventional cardiovascular medicine, the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) Conference, featured dozens of NewYork Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center doctors, PAs, RNs, and other health care professionals. Gregg W. Stone, MD, Director of Cardiovascular Research and Education, NYP/Columbia, was this year’s codirector of the TCT Conference, […]

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Doctor Shortage: How Worried Should We Be?

September 28, 2012

TweetThe Affordable Care Act, which will provide health insurance to 32 million Americans by 2015, has generated much press on an increasingly large shortage of physicians in the United States. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, by 2015, we will have almost 63,000 fewer doctors than is thought necessary to treat the number […]

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U.S. News & World Report Recognizes 33 Top Doctors at NYP/Columbia Department of Surgery

September 21, 2012

TweetCongratulations to the thirty three surgeons at the Department of Surgeon for being recognized by U.S. News & World Report in their 2012 list of Top Doctors. Of these top-ranked surgeons, U.S. News further identified seventeen physicians as being in the top one percent in the nation in their specialties. U.S. News & World Report’s […]

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Long-Term Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement Continues to be as Good as Open Surgery, According to PARTNER Results

August 31, 2012

TweetSince Craig R. Smith, MD, Principal Investigator of the PARTNER study, announced the first findings about transcatheter aortic valve replacement in 2010, the innovative approach is revolutionizing the way we treat aortic stenosis. What is aortic stenosis? Aortic stenosis is a medical condition that prevents the heart’s aortic valve from fully opening, restricting the blood […]

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NY Magazine Recognizes 16 Top Docs at NYP/Columbia

June 7, 2012

TweetCongratulations to sixteen surgeons at the Department of Surgery for being named top doctors by New York Magazine. This annual list recognizes 1160 physicians from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut who are considered top in their fields of expertise. This year, the magazine recognized faculty from nine divisions at NYP/Columbia Department of Surgery: Plastic […]

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Cheney’s Heart Transplant Highlights Issues in Heart Transplantation

April 16, 2012

TweetWhen he received a heart transplant March 24, 2012, former Vice President Dick Cheney joined about 2300 Americans who receive the lifesaving gift of a donor heart each year. After a 20-month wait on the organ waitlist, Cheney was fortunate; the shortage of donor organs remains an extreme problem, and many patients die before an […]

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Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement as Good as Open Surgery, According to PARTNER Results

April 4, 2011

TweetApproximately 300,000 patients in the United States have aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aortic heart valve), and about one third of these patients are too sick or too old to undergo surgical replacement. Under the leadership of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) has been under study as a less […]

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Placement of Aortic Transcatheter Valves Clinicial Trial Results Big News at Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics Conference

October 28, 2010

TweetPARTNER (Placement of Aortic Transcatheter valves) clinical trial principal investigators, including Craig Smith, MD, FACS, presented groundbreaking one-year data at the 22nd Annual Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics scientific symposium, which took place on September 21-25, 2010 in Washington, DC. Their results confirm that less-invasive heart valve replacements significantly lower rates of death in comparison to standard […]

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