Hello! My name is Dr. Husam Balkhy and I am a cardiac surgeon having graduated from KAU College of Medicine, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1987. To date, I have performed approximately 4,000 cardiac surgeries, of which 1,800 involved heart valve procedures. I regularly perform surgery at University of Chicago Medicine. Read more...
I believe my greatest strength is that I have a deep belief in being my patients’ advocate at all times. I put myself in their shoes and derive great satisfaction in explaining complex cardiac surgical procedures in very simple terms.
In this age of multiple procedures I try to explain all the different therapeutic options and help the patient make decisions. In addition I am a big proponent of safe, less invasive surgery using the latest technological advances. I believe that heart surgery can be performed using less invasive approaches safely to minimize trauma and enhance recovery while maintaining the efficacy of the procedure.
"Excellent is the best word that I can think of to describe my treatment by Dr. Balkhy."
-- Joe Gimbel, heart valve surgery patient
"I contacted Dr. Balkhy after being diagnosed with severe mitral valve regurgitation and an episode of atrial fibrillation. He and his team repaired the mitral valve and performed a modified Maze procedure to prevent a fib, all by robotic surgery through small chest incisions. I was able to leave the University of Chicago Medical Center after two days and continue my recovery at home.
Dr. Balkhy and his team have been considerate and caring throughout my hospital stay and follow up appointments. They have my highest recommendation for heart valve surgery."
-- Joseph Corns, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, Maze Procedure, 09/26/2016
-- Joanna Prisiajniouk, Aortic Valve, Valve Replacement, Mini-Thoracotomy / Port Access, 07/21/2016
Dr Balkhy prepared me for what to expect after the surgery so I wouldn't be caught by surprise. He also recognized that I lived far from the hospital and endeavored to limit the number of commutes I needed to make for pre-op tests as well as getting me released so I wouldn't need to go home during Chicago rush hour.
Several questions arose after I got home. Each time I called Brooke, Dr Balkhy's nurse practitioner. Most of the time I got her right away. When I did not, she always got back to me within an hour or so. Each time I called she gave me the information I needed and demonstrated great concern for me.
I was amazed at how quickly I recovered from the surgery. With respect to day to day activities, including driving, work, and my energy level, I was back to normal in about 2 ½ weeks. Before my surgery I worked out regularly. At 6 weeks I am already doing 40 minute aerobic workouts and light weights. Needless to say it will take more time to get back where I was but I am well on my way. Here are the details. My recovery from the surgery has been very simple and fast. I had the surgery done on a Monday, starting at 7:30 AM. I woke up and had my breathing tube removed at about 4PM that day. I was sitting up in a chair about 2 hours later. I spent the night in the ICU and had all the remaining tubes removed the next morning (Tuesday) and was moved to a step down room. Once I got moved I took a walk around the floor. I felt a bit unstable, but other than that I felt good. I had some pain at the incision in my groin area and then a portion of my right chest under the rib cage felt sore. I only needed to take half of the pain killer dose to control my pain enough so I could do the breathing exercises.
I did not spend any time in bed on Tuesday until it was time to go to sleep. I took numerous walks around the floor. By my second walk I didn’t feel the least bit unstable. I was walking slowly for me but I found that each time I walked I felt a little better.
I was released on Wednesday. I had very few restrictions. I wasn’t supposed to drive or do any intense exercise or heavy lifting as long as I was on the pain killer. As it turned out I didn’t take any of the pain killers once I got home. I simply took Advil. Upon arriving home I was able to walk just fine and go up and down steps fairly easily, though I did favor the side of my groin where the incision was located (but only during that first day and a half). Thursday was my first full day at home. I took Advil that day every 6 hours as directed on the package. I took 2 the next 2 days and after that I just took 1 each night before going to bed for another 3 days. After that I used ice on my groin for about 10 minutes in the evening for a few more days. I stayed home that first week, each day increasing the amount of walking I did. I have a Vivofit to track my steps. By the end of the week I was walking about 10,000 steps a day. As the week progressed the pain in the groin became less each day. The pain under the rib cage became more of a numbness and ache. Neither was very bad as shown by how little Advil I was taking.
I went back to work one week after my surgery – on Tuesday. I had my wife drive me on Tuesday, but after that I drove myself. I also worked from home on one day that week. My energy level was still low but I had no problem getting around, even walking up steps to the second floor. I was moving a bit slower than normal, but I felt well enough to get some work done that week. So that was the second week after my surgery.
By the middle of the third week (about 2 ½ weeks after my surgery) I felt that my energy level was back to normal. I still had some aches, but nothing that required medication or even ice. At this point I was walking over 15,000 steps a day and I even began to get on an Elliptical and Treadmill machine at the gym. I started at 5 minutes and felt fine during the exercise and also felt fine the next day. The second time I increased my time to 15 minutes and still felt fine so I continued using the machines about every other day. Initially I didn’t allow my heart rate to get over 100 bpm. I gradually allowed myself to work harder and raise my heart rate more. At my one month follow-up visit with Dr. Balkhy, he reinforced that I did not have any restrictions and that I could do whatever I wanted to do. After that I got more serious about reconditioning my heart. I started working out on the Elliptical hard enough to get my heart rate over 130 bpm for at least 10 minutes. I also began doing light weights.
It is now 6 weeks since my surgery. Today I worked out on the Elliptical for 40 minutes, keeping my heart rate over 130 bpm for 35 minutes of that time. I have also progressed with my weights a bit.
Based on how I am progressing, I have very positive expectations to be back in shape in the near future. "
-- Andrew Richman, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, 05/23/2016
-- eugene cassella, jr., Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, Maze Procedure, 05/19/2016
This was my second heart surgery and at the age of 80 I know it was certainly a challenge for him. My recovery was more than I expected I can walk without assistance, I've gotten back some of my strength, and am very amazed about my recovery happening so fast.
I'm glad that Dr. Balkhy was in the right place at the right time and God gave him the know how to do what he does because truly it's a gift."
-- Louis Rollins, Aortic Valve, Valve Repair, 09/24/2015
I was up and out of bed the day after the surgery; returned home 5 days later. With 3 weeks of Physical Therapy in-home and some follow-up PT at a local rehab unit, I am on the way back to full recovery, and feeling fine.
I cannot say enough about the professionalism and warmth experienced at the consultation and at the follow-up 5 weeks after the surgery. I always felt during and after the consultations that I was Dr. Balkhy's only patient, because he gave my wife and me all the time we needed to get our questions answered, and his entire team also came in during the consultations in the event we had questions for them. I really felt cared for in every possible way. We cannot recommend this team highly enough."
-- Orion Samuelson, Aortic Valve, Mitral Valve, Valve Replacement, Median Sternotomy, 09/14/2015
His nurses, especially Sue and Dorothy, were with me from Day 1 (before the surgery), the 2 days in the hospital, and were 100% available for questions and answers weeks after the procedure.
This was my very first major surgery of any kind, and Dr. Balkhy and his team were the absolute best in all areas. I would HIGHLY recommend Dr. Balkhy and his nursing team. They are truly world-class and the best possible choice for surgery. A+++"
-- Scott G, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, 06/09/2015
I have for most of my life worked out everyday and have logged over 34,000 miles running life to date. Needless to say when the valve started acting up this past winter and tests showed it was time to have the valve fixed I was not ready to hear this news. I had to find the option that would be the most successful and get me back to active the quickest.
Because I knew this day was coming I had over the years researched the procedures, methods, and hospitals that performed them. My research kicked into a higher gear especially regarding the use of robotics to perform the surgery. Now was the time to set up and interview various surgeons to determine the best one to operate on me. The experience with other hospitals and surgeons without mentioning names was not a positive experience. This was not true with Dr. Balkhy and the rest of his team. From the beginning they all made me feel very comfortable and worked with me to answer any and all questions. Because of my extensive research I had some very specific questions and was always treated with respect and none of the condescension or arrogance that I saw elsewhere.
After deciding this was the place to go and that Dr. Balkhy and his team were the right people to get it done we quickly worked out a schedule. I made a quick trip to Chicago a week prior to surgery for some pre-testing that was required. This day at the hospital was also a very positive experience. Everyone was so nice and professional. There wasn't any negative experience at all and no wait times I would consider out of the ordinary. Everyone from the valets, receptionist, nurses and technicians did an exceptional job. The day of the surgery and afterward continued the experience. I was so nervous, but check-in was painless, and everything moved along well. Everyone along the way explained things thoroughly, allowed time for any questions, and showed genuine concern for me and my family the entire way.
The surgery itself went very well and from what I understand text book. While I don't remember anything my family was well communicated with the entire day. Some many hours later they were able to meet me after waking in the ICU. I was well taken care of while in the ICU and was able to move to a step down unit the following afternoon. I spent one day in the step down unit and was visited by Dr. Balkhy that afternoon. I was very happy to hear from him in detail how things went and to find out I was on schedule to head home the next day. Who would have ever guessed you could leave the hospital after major heart surgery after only two days.
Since arriving home the recovery has been nothing short of phenomenal. I never had to take any pain medication stronger than Tylenol. The first day home I was able to go for multiple short walks. By the third day I was able to walk 1.5 miles. By the 5th day I was able to add work in my garden and other light chores. After 10 days I was able to jog half mile at the end of my daily walk. By two weeks I was able to rototill my garden and mow the lawn. I was able to drive myself 6 hours up north to go fishing for multiple days. Since then I have been able to add more extensive yard work like trimming evergreen trees and building a stone retaining wall. 21 days since arriving home I was able to jog 2.5 miles in 25:05 with no issues. Today I really feel almost back to normal and even the five small incisions are completely healed. Even with my research the results have far exceeded anything I could have hoped for at this point.
I can't express enough the gratitude I feel towards Dr.Balkhy and his team at University of Chicago Medical Center. His skill and that of the entire team and the professionalism of everyone that I came in contact with made this traumatic experience into an extremely positive event for me. I could not more highly recommend this team and the robotic option to anyone having to undergo this surgery. "
-- Jeff Paavola, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, Maze Procedure, 05/29/2015
Dr. Balkhy's follow-up, along with his team, was excellent and answered all the questions I and my wife had. I would highly recommend Dr. Balkhy. He was an answer to prayer, as I relied fully on Jesus Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. "
-- Carl Pignotti, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, 05/27/2015
-- Angelo Valenti, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, 05/18/2015
I really did not want to have my chest cracked open. At the University of Chicago I was able to meet with Dr Husam Balkhy and members of his team and discussed Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery and mitral valve repair. All of my questions were answered. Dr. Balkhy's demeanor was calm and reassuring. Most important, I received the impression from the other RNs, that in the operating theater that Dr Balkhy, even as the surgeon, is a team player.
With Robotic Surgery I was out of Intensive care in less than a day, up and about briefly on the second day, and fully ambulatory up and about pacing on the third day and discharge later that afternoon. The care that I received was excellent. At home, I do activity as tolerated and have some discomfort to wound sites only if I over exceed myself. I can, with confidence, recommend Dr. Husam Balkhy and his team at University of Chicago for Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery for any cardiac procedures. "
-- Gary Phelps, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, 04/08/2015
I was so impressed with his answers and willingness to have a detailed "conversation" with me about my problem, the surgical procedure itself and the post-op situation that I immediately decided to have him do the surgery. His demeanor is one of gentleness and quiet confidence with not a hint of arrogance. He explained the advantage(s) of robotic surgery vis-a-vis the more standard surgical procedure, even if it was described as "minimally invasive" and stressed the skill and experience of his team. And indeed his "team" is extraordinary and reflect his skill and attitude.
Everything went as he explained/predicted; discharged from hospital on the 3rd day (Sunday); almost no pain or discomfort (my biggest "problem" was the itchy skin where they shaved my chest, What??). My son picked me up at the hospital (mandatory) and after dropping him off at his house, I drove home. Dr Balkhy had said I was cleared to drive as long as I was not taking the narco pain medication. I did not need/take any opioid after Friday afternoon so I was good-to-go. I went to work Monday morning. The only noticeable effect was a certain degree of fatigue near days end lasting perhaps 2 weeks.
My gratitude and regard for Dr. Balkhy and his team at the University of Chicago is unequivocal."
-- Jack Caallahan, Aortic Valve, Robotic Surgery, 03/05/2015
It is important to mention, that I had gotten 3 other opinions before finding out about Port Access Aortic Valve Replacement. I had been told by all the previous physicians that I needed to have my sternum "cracked open". However, all 3 of them were wrong - this was not the case.
Dr. Bahlky was able to replace my valve without cutting through my sternum. Thus, the stress to my body, the healing process and the scar were far less extensive. I am so happy I decided to get a 4th opinion and that I found this wonderful team.
The care I received in the hospital, as well as my post-surgical experience was also noteworthy. Having lived through: 3 separate primary cancers, multiple surgeries, chemo & radiation~prior to my heart issues, I consider myself somewhat of an authority on hospitals, doctors & nurses. That being said, this was the highest level of care I have ever received. Nothing is easy about heart surgery or recovery, but I thank God I kept digging until I found an option I could accept."
-- Paula LaBree, Aortic Valve, Valve Replacement, Mini-Thoracotomy / Port Access, 02/24/2015
-- John Fichera, Mitral Valve, Valve Replacement, 02/23/2015
Both my wife and I have had heart procedures performed by Dr. Balkhy. For me, he closed a couple holes in my heart robotically which were causing strokes. My wife had an aortic valve replacement in 2011. Both of us strongly recommend Dr Balkhy and his team. After researching other approaches and doctors, we are convinced he truly was the best for both of our needs! The robotic process is precise and allows for a much faster recovery with minimal, if any, scaring.
He and his team were excellent about explaining the process, benefits and concerns and recovery. They were exceptional throughout the process and my recovery. My surgery was on Tuesday morning. I was released Thursday morning, fully capable to walk out of the hospital on my own. My recovery has been fast.
My entire experience at the University of Chicago Hospital was outstanding. We are very grateful patient(s). Thank you Dr. Balkhy! "
-- Doug Frohmader, Aortic Valve, Robotic Surgery, 01/20/2015
After consultation with my personal Doctor, I was referred to a heart surgeon who suggested surgery. I am also a polio survivor and for the past several years have experienced living with post-polio. I am very weak, poor balance, and easily fatigued. He suggested that because of my health conditions, and open heart surgery, I should consider selling my home and moving into assisted living.
My family did not agree. With a referral to Dr. Balkhy, from my daughter-in-law who knew Dr. Balkhy, we met with the Doctor and were completely satisfied with his assurance that robotic surgery would give me a quicker recover with less pain etc.
I was home in 48 hours after surgery and I am a new man. I had little pain and recovered amazingly quick. I can't say enough good about Dr. Balkhy. I have had no problems since the day of surgery."
-- gerald deleeuw, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, 01/16/2015
On the morning of Jan 9, i went in to surgery confident that everything would turn out well. On Jan 10, i was walking carefully in intensive care and on Jan 11 i was released from the hospital. I never needed a pain medication. I took a week off work and returned to work on Jan 19. Not bad for a 64 year old guy.
I have only the highest praise for the medical team and the robotic process and would urge anyone to see if it was a suitable option for them rather than open heart. He even repaired a hole in my heart from birth.
I am willing to discuss further if someone who is facing surgery is interested."
-- William Thurner, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, 01/09/2015
-- Mary Hawkins, Aortic Valve, Robotic Surgery, 07/21/2014
-- NANCY PETTET-SCHUBERT, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, 05/08/2014
-- Joseph Gimbel, Aortic Valve, Mini-Thoracotomy / Port Access, 10/10/2011
-- Don Marlow, Mitral Valve, Valve Repair, Robotic Surgery, 09/30/2010
-- Jason Smith, Aortic Valve, Valve Replacement, Root Replacement, 08/26/2008
Specific to heart valve surgery, you should know that I have several specialties including:
In addition, I have research and clinical interests specific to:
Dr. Husam Balkhy, heart surgeon, graduated from KAU College of Medicine, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1987.
Dr. Balkhy completed his General Surgery Residency at Tufts New England Medical Center in 1994. He then completed a Vascular Surgery Fellowship at Lahey Clinic in 1995 and a Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship at Tufts New England Medical Center in 1997.
In addition to being board certified in cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. Balkhy was awarded the Spirit of Caring in Health Innovation Award by Community Memorial Hospital.