Allen Cheng, M.D., has started implanting ventricular assist devices that can serve as a bridge to a transplant or be a treatment their own right.
Allen Cheng, M.D., has returned to Louisville to help build Norton Heart & Vascular Institute’s ventricular assist device program and has started implanting the mechanical heart pumps.
Dr. Cheng, a board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon, uses ventricular assist devices, known as VADs, as a bridge to a heart transplant or as long-term destination therapy.
An experienced heart transplant surgeon, previously surgical director of heart transplantation at Jewish Hospital, Dr. Cheng left Louisville four years ago to join the Oklahoma Heart Institute in Tulsa. There he helped build a VAD program and served as surgical director of advanced heart failure and mechanical circulatory support.
“It is a privilege that I can help make a difference in someone’s life, but more importantly to provide the most cutting-edge technologies and minimally invasive cardiac surgery skills for patient care, something I would want if I am the patient,” Dr. Cheng said.
Kentucky has high levels of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other medical conditions that can lead to heart failure. These conditions also can make patients ineligible for heart transplants. Unlike heart transplantation, a VAD can be implanted with minimally invasive techniques and doesn’t come with a long wait time for a donor heart.
Adding 20 years of experience to a growing heart failure team
Dr. Cheng joined a team of Norton Heart & Vascular Institute cardiothoracic surgeons and will work closely with the Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program team as surgical director of heart failure and mechanical circulatory support. His nearly 20 years of cardiovascular surgery expertise add to the experience in the program, led by executive medical director Kelly C. McCants, M.D., and Bassel Alkhalil, M.D., medical director, mechanical circulatory support.
In addition to treating patients with VADs, Dr. Cheng will expand use of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and minimally invasive heart valve surgery. ECMO can provide temporary support for patients with severe acute congestive heart failure and acute respiratory failure. Minimally invasive heart valve repair and replacement surgery (for mitral, tricuspid and aortic valves) benefits patients with a much smaller incision, less trauma to the body and faster recovery.
“I have a strong passion for and experiences in building a VAD and heart failure program. It is important to me to be able to serve the community better by providing the latest technology, and cutting-edge skill sets along with minimally invasive approach,” Dr. Cheng said.
In working with the Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program, Dr. Cheng joins Dr. McCants and Dr. Alkhalil and a team that includes certified heart failure nurse practitioners, a nurse navigator to help educate and support patients and coordinate their care, and a full-time social worker and financial coordinator to help with issues ranging from insurance to housing.
“Norton Healthcare has a strong heart failure program with operational support, as well as history of cardiac surgical expertise in place,” Dr. Cheng said. “I am excited to see what the future of expansion of VAD implantation and advanced heart surgery can provide to this community.”
In addition to his work with VADs, Dr. Cheng’s specialties include minimally invasive heart valve surgery, mitral valve repair, heart transplantation, mechanical circulatory devices (ECMO, Impella), transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR, Tendyne) and atrial fibrillation surgical treatment.
Dr. Cheng completed his general surgery residency at University of California, Los Angeles; a cardiovascular surgery postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University Medical Center in California; a cardiovascular surgery fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts; and a cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He also completed further training in mechanical circulatory support, transplantation and minimally invasive cardiac surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
Dr. Cheng was also associate professor, Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, at the University of Oklahoma.
Dr. Cheng and his wife welcomed their first child in 2020 and returned to Louisville to join family and friends.