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Thirty Years After An Aortic Dissection,
A Solution is Found

“When I woke up from my surgery, my first thought was extreme gratitude. ‘I am still here.’ I touched my chest and only felt soreness, not pain; I couldn’t believe how it wasn’t that painful. I was just really happy that the surgery had a positive outcome, and so grateful to Dr. Russo,” said Lorraine.

Lorraine is no stranger to heart issues. More than 30 years ago, Lorraine suffered a dissection of the aorta and was transferred to two hospitals in New Jersey before landing at a hospital in New York City. Medical experts told her it was too dangerous to perform surgery. In fact, one physician dismissed her by saying he was skeptical any doctor would actually take her case.
Thankfully, Lorraine found a cardiologist to help manage her condition successfully with medication, blood pressure monitoring and imaging to monitor any changes in the dissection. However, in the middle of 2020, Lorraine developed a constant cough and as it progressed, she was told it was most likely asthma, but she knew something was wrong when she struggled to breathe.

She ended up at a local emergency department in Manahawkin, where she was told she had congestive heart failure and required surgery.

“I was so nervous because I was previously told I couldn’t have surgery, and I was petrified of what open heart surgery would be like,” said Lorraine.

The hospital team highly recommended Mark Russo, MD, MS, chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery; director of Structural Heart Disease, RWJBarnabas Health, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) and associate professor of surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Her cardiologist agreed Dr. Russo was the right surgeon for Lorraine, and upon further research, she was impressed as well.

During a telemedicine appointment with Dr. Russo, they had an open conversation about her case and Lorraine explained her history. Dr. Russo talked her through the complex surgeries needed to help her. In October 2020 at RWJUH in New Brunswick, Dr. Russo performed a successful open replacement of her ascending aortic aneurysm with an aortic valve replacement (AVR), in combination with coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Lorraine was discharged a few days later.

“When I woke up from my surgery, my first thought was extreme gratitude. ‘I am still here.’ I touched my chest and only felt soreness, not pain; I couldn’t believe how it wasn’t that painful. I was just really happy that the surgery had a positive outcome, and so grateful to Dr. Russo,” said Lorraine.

After some time recuperating, Lorraine returned for the final part of her journey to recovery. In December 2020, Dr. Russo and vascular surgeon William Beckerman, MD, assistant professor of surgery and associate program director in the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, successfully performed a minimally invasive procedure, thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR), placing a stent graft in the descending aorta.

Today, although she is still in recovery, she feels better every day, both physically and mentally.

“Over the years whenever I would see cardiovascular surgeons, they would say, ‘Wow! What you have is so rare, we don’t know what to do.’ I am so thankful to Dr. Russo and to God, who I believe guided me to him. I am very, very lucky with my outcome, and for any patients who have had a problem for decades, whatever it is, if you haven’t seen a doctor to follow-up on what new procedures are available, I encourage you to. It saved my life,” says Lorraine.

Please call us at (732) 235-7231 or send an email here.

For your convenience, Telemedicine Consults are available for patients.  To schedule a consultation, please call  732-235-7231.  

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
125 Paterson Street, Suite 4100
New Brunswick, NJ
(732) 235-7231
To schedule an in-person or telemedicine consult-ation with Dr. Russo, call 732-235-7231 or send an email
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Dr. Russo is Professor of Surgery, Chief of Cardiac Surgery, and Director of Structural Heart Disease at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

He is an internationally-known expert in the treatment of heart valve disease, and one of the most experienced transcatheter valve surgeons in the U.S. Dr. Russo specializes in complex and reoperative aortic and valvular surgery.

Dr. Russo has coauthored more than 200 published manuscripts, abstracts, and textbook chapters focused on improving health care quality, outcomes, and access for patients with cardiovascular disease. Dr. Russo holds leadership roles for numerous national and international clinical trials. The findings of his work have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the Lancet, the Journals of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and Circulation and reported by major media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC News, U.S. News & World Report, and Newsweek.

Commonly Performed Procedures


Minimally invasive valve surgery is a specialized approach to treating heart valve disease that avoids the need to “crack the chest.” This method uses sophisticated instruments to perform the surgery through a smaller incision at the side of the chest and offers the patients less pain and faster recovery. We perform nearly all of our isolated valve surgeries minimally invasively.


An aortic aneurysm is a bulging, weakened area in the wall of main blood vessel in the body. The risk of aortic catastrophe, including dissection and rupture, increases dramatically with an aneurysm. Surgery may be recommended when the aorta is larger than 4.5-6 cms. Factors including family history, lifestyle, and need for other heart surgery guide decisions about surgery.​

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), also known as transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), is a minimally invasive approach to the treatment of aortic stenosis. In most patients, it requires no incision and typically patients are discharged within 1 day. Dr Russo is among the most experienced TAVR surgeons in the US.

A “bypass” or “cabg” surgery is the most commonly performed heart surgery. It is necessary when the coronary arteries, which provide blood to the heart become narrow preventing sufficient blood from passing through, and thus depriving the heart of oxygen and nutrients. RWJUH has CABG outcomes that exceed national benchmarks.

When other treatments are insufficient, a heart transplant is a surgical procedure offered to patients with the most severe damage to the heart. RWJUH is one of a limited number of centers in the US that offer advance heart failure surgery, including heart transplant. Dr. Russo has participated in 500+ successful transplant surgeries.

The MitraClip device is a small clip that helps your mitral valve to close more completely. The procedure does not require opening the chest or stopping the heart. Instead, through a vein in the leg, a thin tube (called a catheter) is guided to the mitral valve. Dr. Russo is among the highest volume Mitraclip operators in the Northeast.​​

Clinical Trials at RWJUH

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement vs OMM (randomized) for asymptomatic severe AS The EARLY TAVR trial (Edwards) looks at transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) as an effective treatment for patients with asymptomatic aortic stenosis. Patients are randomized to either treatment with TAVR or clinical surveillance until the develop symptoms, at which point they are eligible to be treated with TAVR.  Read More

This study objective is to establish the safety and effectiveness of the Edwards SAPIEN 3/ SAPIEN 3 Ultra Transcatheter Heart Valve in subjects with moderate, calcific aortic stenosis. Patients are randomized to S3 TAVR device or medical management.  Read More

ALIGN-AR evaluates the safety and probable benefit of the transfemoral JenaValve Pericardial TAVR System in patients with symptomatic severe aortic regurgitation. Patients who are high risk for open surgical aortic valve replacement/repair are eligible. RWJUH is one of only 15 centers in the U.S. that can offer this therapy that has been granted a “Breakthrough Device Designation” by the US Food and Drug Administration. This designation is reserved for investigative therapies designed to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and where preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the therapy may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement for severe AS with a novel deviceEvaluates the safety and efficacy of Acurate (Boston Scientific) valve for transcatheter aortic valve replacement. For patients with severe aortic stenosis who are at intermediate or greater risk for SAVR. Patients are randomized to Acurate or commerical TAVR device. Read More

The study is a prospective, multi-center, randomized controlled pivotal clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the EVOQUE System with optimal medical therapy (OMT) compared to OMT alone in the treatment of patients with at least severe tricuspid regurgitation. Subjects will be followed at discharge, 30 days, 3 months, 6 months and annually through 5 years.

This study will establish the safety and effectiveness of the SAPIEN M3 System in subjects with symptomatic, at least 3+ mitral regurgitation (MR) for whom commercially available surgical or transcatheter treatment options are deemed unsuitable.

The SUMMIT-Tendyne trial (Abbott) evaluates the safety and effectiveness of using the Tendyne Mitral Valve System for the treatment of symptomatic mitral regurgitation or mitral annular calcification in patients who are not appropriate for conventional mitral valve surgery. In the randomized arm, patients are treated with either the Tendyne device or MitraClip, while patients in the non-randomized and MAC arms receive the Tendyne device. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03433274

CLASP IID/F is a prospective, multicenter, randomized, controlled pivotal trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of transcatheter mitral valve repair in patients with degenerative/functional mitral regurgitation with the Edwards PASCAL Transcatheter Valve Repair System compared with the commercially available device (Abbott MitraClip).

RESTORE is a prospective, multicenter, non-randomized trial designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the HARPOON™ Beating Heart Mitral Valve Repair System in patients with severe degenerative mitral regurgitation (DMR).