DR. MARK J. RUSSO, MD, MS

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In  everything I do in life, I move very quickly and can’t slow my pace down; I don’t hesitate. I’ve been like that all my life. So when I started experiencing shortness of breath just walking around my neighborhood, it was a big problem.
I had a heart bypass done a few years ago and recovered well afterwards. I went back every six months to my cardiologist to get a check-up after that. Eventually, at one of my follow-up appointments, my doctor told me he didn’t like how my aortic valve sounded, and he was going to start monitoring it. As the years passed, I noticed that I was having trouble with my breathing—it wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t really good, either. I’d be walking like normal and have to stop after a little while and catch my breath. I actually stopped doing certain activities, because it required more effort to do them. When we went to church on Sunday, I had to climb a flight of stairs and slowly take one step at a time. I remember thinking, “boy, this is not good.” I was concerned and unhappy about my shortness of breath, and I told my cardiologist at my next appointment with him. He said it was a key symptom of aortic stenosis—a narrowing of the aortic valve—and it was time to take a closer look. He let me know I would eventually need a valve replacement to feel better. He said fortunately, I was a good candidate for a minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). My cardiologist said that TAVR was “a piece of cake,” and explained the surgeon would replace my valve by going through a catheter in my groin area. I was all in favor of it. I went to the hospital on a Friday and a cardiologist there assessed my valve. He looked at me and said, “If you were my father, I would do the TAVR tomorrow.” The problem was, my wife and I were planning to head to our winter home in Florida that Sunday. But I knew this was more important—Florida could wait—and I’d enjoy being down South much more with a new valve. I told the cardiologist, “let’s do it.” That Wednesday morning, I went back to the hospital for my TAVR procedure. The TAVR took 45 minutes—the prep I had to do was more of a pain in the neck than the actual procedure! Afterwards, I was in the ICU for 12 hours to make sure everything was functioning properly. I was back home Thursday afternoon, and only 36 hours later, I was basically back to my normal activities. It was amazing. There was no rehab. There was no physical therapy. I didn’t have to do anything but resume my normal life. And I was never in any pain. You can’t get much better than that! I went back to my cardiologist about a month later for a follow-up appointment, and now I just have regular appointments to check in with him—and he can’t find anything wrong with me. He even takes me around the office to show me off to other cardiologists. I’m thrilled with how I feel, and so is my wife. Everybody is thrilled. People tell me I’ve got more color in my face; I’ve got more oxygen in my system and I feel great. It’s funny how, once we feel better, we quickly forget how badly we felt in the past—I can’t believe I was living with that constant struggle to catch my breath. Now, back in Florida, I go to the beach, have a bite to eat, see friends, listen to the ocean—I’m not restricted in any way anymore. In front of our condo, there’s a handicap ramp, and before my TAVR, I would have to stop in the middle and take a breather before continuing to the lobby. Now, after TAVR, I’m walking up the ramp without stopping. I’m getting a knee replacement in two weeks, and I can’t wait—I’m going to start running around the block! To anyone thinking about getting TAVR, I say: don’t hesitate. You won’t regret it. George Nahass is almost 84 years old. He and his wife of 60 years split their time between New Jersey and Florida. Together, they have six children, 19 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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).