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Nationally Recognized Cardiothoracic Program Helps Patients Avoid Open Heart Surgery

From Dr. Paul DiGiorgi is a cardiothoracic surgeon at Lee Health’s Shipley Cardiothoracic Center

As the largest and longest-running cardiovascular program in Southwest Florida, Lee Health is staffed with an award-winning team of cardiothoracic surgeons and cardiologists.

Lee Health was also the first health care system in the region and the second health care system in the country to perform a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure.

The history of the TAVR program at Lee Health goes back to 2011, when cardiothoracic surgeons at Shipley Cardiothoracic Center – Lee Health’s cardiothoracic surgery program – traveled to Germany to observe a live TAVR procedure. After receiving further training, they decided the procedure could benefit Lee Health patients and preparations were made to launch the first TAVR program in Southwest Florida at HealthPark Medical Center.   

On Dec. 15, 2011, the team performed their first two TAVR procedures. The next day, they successfully performed two more. Since performing that first case, the cardiovascular team has performed more than 1,800 TAVR procedures.

Shipley’s TAVR program has since grown to be the premier program in Southwest Florida for the procedure.

The TAVR procedure is a minimally invasive alternative to open heart surgery for patients with severe aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve that leads to a restriction of blood flow and causes severe symptoms. 

The benefits of the TAVR procedure compared to open heart surgery are significant. More than half of TAVR patients are able to go home the day after their surgery and can expect to return to normal activities in about one week. Patients having traditional open heart surgery for valve replacement will typically require approximately eight weeks of recovery time.

The Shipley Cardiothoracic Center is the second-largest cardiac surgery program in the state, performing over 1,500 surgical cases each year. The Shipley Cardiothoracic Center is located within HealthPark Medical Center, which has been recognized four times as an IBM Watson Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospital.

We continually work to provide the most up-to-date and advanced treatment options for our patients.

To learn more about the Shipley Cardiothoracic Center, visit