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Cardiac Surgery

We are ready to care for you. Learn how we are prioritizing your safety here.

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You or your physician may give us a call to schedule your cardiac surgery consultation or appointment.


Billings Clinic cardiac surgeons pioneered the first open-heart surgery in Montana in 1972, and now, over 40 years and over 10,000 surgeries later, we continue to offer the state's most comprehensive cardiac care throughout Montana and Northern Wyoming.

Whether you are having bypass surgery or mitral or aortic valve repair or replacement, with our state-of-the-art technology and a team approach to cardiac care, we work hard to provide you the highest quality, coordinated and compassionate care.

The Billings Clinic cardiac surgical team consists of board-certified cardiac, thoracic and vascular surgeons. Our surgical team is ready to handle your urgent needs, regardless of the time of the day or day of the week.

Cardiac surgery procedures

Aaron Johnson - ski accident patient

Skier Hits Tree, Tears Aorta, Gets Life Saving Procedure at Billings Clinic

Article written by Zach Benoit, Billings Gazette
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Billings Clinic has an outstanding cardiac surgery team. With the latest, innovative technology, our care team provides cardiac procedures of all kinds, including:

Minimally-invasive Procedures

  • minimally-invasive aortic valve surgery
  • minimally-invasive mitral valve surgery
  • minimally-invasive ablation

Learn more about our cardiac procedures and how they can affect your life and heart health.


TEVAR involves the use of a Thoracic Stent Graft to repair conditions such as aortic aneurysms or traumatic injury to the descending thoracic aorta. Historically these conditions have resulted in the need for major surgery which requires a several day stay in the hospital and many activity restrictions for patients as they recover from surgery.

The TEVAR procedure is completed in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab using a multi-disciplinary team of cardiologist, cardiac surgeons, anesthesia, cath lab, and OR personnel. During this procedure, a fabric graft supported by a metal framework is placed within the affected area of the aorta. The procedure takes approximately 1-3 hours to complete and patient’s stay in the hospital is approximately 2-3 days. Within 2 weeks of the procedure, patients should be back to their normal, active lifestyle with no restrictions.

The most common heart surgery procedures performed at Billings Clinic include coronary artery bypass grafting surgery and heart valve repair or replacement surgery.

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting Surgery

Heart Surgery (coronary artery bypass grafting) is an operation in which the surgeon creates a bypass or detour around blockages within the coronary arteries. The bypass or detour restores normal blood flow to the heart. The surgeon uses the patient’s own blood vessels (arteries and veins) to create the bypass grafts. The most commonly used blood vessels are the internal mammary artery (which supplies blood to the inside of the chest) or saphenous veins (which return blood to the heart from the legs).

The goal of bypass surgery is to relieve symptoms of coronary artery disease, lower risk of a heart attack, and enable patients to resume a normal lifestyle.

Heart Valve Repair or Replacement Surgery

As noted previously, the heart has 4 chambers. Blood is pumped through the chambers of the heart, aided by 4 heart valves. The perfect valve would be one which minimizes any obstruction and allows blood to flow freely in one direction through the heart. The four heart valves include:

  • Tricuspid valve – between the right atrium and right ventricle
  • Pulmonic valve - between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery
  • Mitral valve – between the left atrium and left ventricle
  • Aortic valve – between the left ventricle and the aorta

Each valve has a set of flaps (also called leaflets or cusps). When working properly, the heart valves open and close fully and blood flows through the valve in a smooth and even manner. Heart valves don’t always work as they should. There are several factors which can cause heart valves to work improperly. A person can be born with an abnormal heart valve (a congenital heart defect) or a valve can become damaged by infections, rheumatic fever, or changes in valve structure as a person ages. Diagnosis of valvular heart disease is made by a Cardiologist usually with an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart).

There are two common conditions that can occur when a natural heart valve becomes defective or fails to fully open or close. These conditions can occur in just one valve or in more than one valve.

  • Stenosis occurs when the valve cannot open completely or becomes narrow, so blood is pumped through a smaller than normal opening.
  • Regurgitation occurs when the valve is not able to close completely, so blood leaks back through the valve when the valve should be closed.

Generally, even though the initial damage to a valve may happen early in life, the early effects are mild and defect progresses slowly. When the stenosis or regurgitation rate attains a significant level, clinical problems may become noticeable and symptoms of heart failure are felt by the patient.

Valve Repair and Replacement Options

Diseased heart valves can be treated in several ways. These include 1) treatment with medication; 2) surgical repair; or 3) surgical replacement.

Heart valve repairs are generally completed using a ring to repair the valve.

If the surgeon chooses to replace a natural heart valve, the first step is to remove the diseased natural valve (excise the valve) and then implant a prosthetic heart valve in its place. Prosthetic valves used to replace the heart’s diseased natural valves come in different sizes to fit the patient and are made from a variety of materials. If the surgeon chooses to replace the natural heart valve, there are two broad categories of heart valves that he will choose from.

  • bioprosthetic or tissue valves made primarily from animal tissue [i.e., a pig’s aortic valve, a cow’s pericardium (sac surrounding its heart) or human valves from cadavers]. Patient’s will be on blood thinners for a short period of time with this type of replacement valve.
  • mechanical valves constructed from synthetic material. Patient’s will be required to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives with this type of valve replacement.

MedFlight services for critical care

Patients in the rural communities that require emergency heart care services can be flown in by Billings Clinic MedFlight, our medical transport service.

Billings Clinic MedFlight functions as a flying ICU, caring for patients needing critical care medical service and air transportation. Our flight team is the only flight team in Montana to perform patient transports for patients with an intra-aortic balloon pump.

Women's Choice Award for one of the nation's best hospitals for obstetric care

Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Database

Billings Clinic Billings Clinic is a participant in the Society of Thoracic Surgeons National Database. By participating, our cardiac, thoracic and vascular surgeons are committed to providing quality care and patient safety to those we serve.

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Upcoming Events

  • Aug
    8:00 AM - 8:15 AM
    Students must have completed part one online Heartcode and bring their certificate to this skills check. Failure to bring certificate will result in appointment reschedule.
  • Aug
    8:15 AM - 8:30 AM
    Students must have completed part one online Heartcode and bring their certificate to this skills check. Failure to bring certificate will result in appointment reschedule.
  • Aug
    8:30 AM - 8:45 AM
    Students must have completed part one online Heartcode and bring their certificate to this skills check. Failure to bring certificate will result in appointment reschedule.