Portsmouth Regional Hospital is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the cardiovascular surgery program. The program launched in December 1998, bringing open-heart surgery to the Seacoast Region for the first time. PRH is still the only hospital on the Seacoast to offer open-heart surgery and to be designated as a Chest Pain Center by the American College of Cardiology.

“Launching an open-heart surgical program 25 years ago was a pivotal moment in our hospital’s history,” said Dean M. Carucci, chief executive officer of Portsmouth Regional Hospital. “It helped propel us from a small community hospital to a regional medical center of choice for many patients, not only for cardiac care, but for other comprehensive programs as well. It’s one of many programs we’re proud of here, and under the leadership of Dr. Robert Helm, chief of cardiothoracic surgery, the program continues to grow and thrive.”

The cardiothoracic and vascular program has grown significantly, both from a technological and medical advancement perspective, and gives patients the opportunity to receive complex cardiovascular care, close to home, and close to their support systems. It is staffed by experts and thought leaders in the field, including Yale-trained cardiac surgeon Christopher Terrien, MD, who joined the program in 2018; Kevin McCusker, chief of perfusion, who is credited with developing the state-of-the-art heart lung machine that is used not only at PRH, but worldwide; William Wilson, MD, who leads the mechanical heart support program at PRH; and Syed Peeran, MD, surgical director of vascular surgery, who brought his pioneering techniques to the Seacoast from the Mayo Clinic. Under Peeran’s leadership, PRH has become the regional leader in vascular surgical care.

“I came to Portsmouth Regional Hospital from The Cornell-Columbia Health Care System in New York to join the new program, which had been started by Dr. Donato Sisto,” said Robert Helm, MD. “My goal was to join and help develop, from the ground up, a new cardiothoracic surgical program, one that had the potential to deliver world-class patient care, and where my skills, experience and work ethic could make a difference. Twenty-five years later, I can say that I truly found that here at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. Over the years, with outstanding support from both the hospital and the community, we have become a regional leader in minimally invasive surgery of the aortic, mitral, and tricuspid valves, and have advanced all areas of cardiothoracic and vascular surgical care. Today, patients from the Seacoast and surrounding areas – as well as those from beyond our state borders – expect and receive care that rivals and exceeds the care delivered in Boston and beyond.”

The PRH cardiac surgery program also has earned a distinguished three-star rating from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) for its patient care and outcomes in aortic valve replacement (AVR) and coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). The three-star rating, which denotes the highest category of quality, places Portsmouth Regional Hospital among the elite for both isolated AVR and isolated CABG surgery, putting it in the top 2-5% of hospitals in the United States and Canada.

A few cardiovascular surgery highlights over the past 25 years:

  • 1998 – Launched the cardiovascular surgery program
  • 1998 – First open heart surgery was performed on Dec. 1, 1998
  • 2000 – Robert Helm, MD, chief of cardiothoracic surgery, joins Portsmouth Regional Hospital
  • 2001 – Completed 1,000 cardiac surgery cases
  • 2010 – First hybrid operating room in the state of New Hampshire built at PRH
  • 2010 – First endovascular abdominal aortic aneurysm repair performed
  • 2012 – First minimally invasive aortic valve replacement is performed by Dr. Helm
  • 2014 – First mini mitral valve surgery is performed by Dr Helm
  • 2016 – Vascular surgeon Syed Peeran, MD, joins PRH from the Mayo Clinic. First minimally invasive iliac aneurysm surgery is performed by Dr. Peeran.
  • 2017 – First TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) is performed
  • 2018 – Yale-trained surgeon Christopher Terrien, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon specializing in valve repair and coronary bypass, joins the PRH surgical team
  • 2020 – The ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) program is markedly expanded to meet the growing needs of the community; William Wilson, MD, is appointed surgical director of the ECMO Program.
  • 2022 – First robotic thoracic surgery is performed by the newly recruited world-class thoracic surgeon John Federico, MD.
  • 2024 – Syed Peeran, MD, surgical director of vascular surgery is named the chief of surgery at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.