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Cardiac Surgeon Massimo Griselli has a world of experience healing hearts

Meet Massimo Griselli, MD, MS, FRCS, the new chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at the Pediatric Heart Center at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon Massimo Griselli, MD, MS, FRCS, recently joined the Heart Center at University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

The chance to give the people under his care a better, healthier life drives Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon Massimo Griselli, MD, MS, FRCS.

After practicing cardiac surgery in Europe, the United Kingdom and the Middle East, Griselli joined the Heart Center team at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in 2018. There, he is serving as the center’s chief of pediatric cardiac surgery. He has extensive international experience in congenital heart disease treatment and mechanical cardiac support, making him one of the most experienced surgeons of his kind in the United States.

We caught up with Griselli to find out more about his expertise, his role at the Heart Center and his passion for heart surgery. Read more.

You have practiced cardiac surgery in more countries than most. Can you give us an overview of your unique professional background?

I am originally from Italy, where I graduated from medical school. However, I have spent most of my professional life in London, England, where I trained and practiced at Imperial College, University of London. I spent many years working with late-stage heart failure patients, focusing on ventricular assist devices (VAD) and other mechanical support mechanisms for advanced heart failure. I also performed many heart transplants during my career in the United Kingdom. In 2015, I chose to shift my professional focus to do more neonatal surgery. In London, I focused on heart failure and heart transplant cases in adults, but I became interested in working with patients who had congenital heart disease. In order to take on this new challenge, I spent six months in France, and then two years in Saudi Arabia, where I built strong expertise in neonatal cardiac surgery, particularly complex primary repairs on congenital heart defects in infants, before accepting this position at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. I have also spent time teaching surgeons globally, most recently in Hong Kong.

What drew you to the Heart Center at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital?

University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital has a strong team of care providers with a robust mix of experience across pediatric cardiac surgery, mechanical cardiovascular support, and heart transplantation. The hospital also has a well-established congenital heart disease program.

The Heart Center also has a deep collaborative relationship with other care providers, including cardiologists, hospitalists, anesthesiologists, pediatric general surgeons, and many others, both at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and in the University of Minnesota Health adult cardiac surgery program. Maintaining excellent relationships across all team members is key to creating excellent outcomes for patients. The team here has excellent surgical outcomes, and I look forward to seeing the program grow as we move forward.

Learn more about the Heart Center at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

What makes you passionate about cardiac surgery? 

I have wanted to be a cardiac surgeon from the time I was very young. I was drawn to the fascinating operations cardiac surgeons did, and I’ve always had a fondness for the heart as an organ. I come from a family of doctors—we have two doctors and two veterinarians in the family. I enjoyed seeing what my family members were doing, and I felt confident that this was the right choice for me. During my training, I particularly liked the congenital side of cardiac surgery. Although I practiced adult cardiac surgery for many years, I am delighted to be focusing on congenital cardiac surgery here at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

You’re using the term “congenital heart surgery” rather than “pediatric heart surgery.” Can you explain the distinction between the two?

I prefer to use the term congenital heart surgery, rather than pediatric heart surgery, because we follow these young patients throughout their lives. The modern congenital heart surgeon does not just focus on babies and children, because the same surgeon takes care of other procedures a congenital heart disease patient may need as they grow into adulthood. Unlike a pediatric heart surgeon, who is focused on children with heart diseases, a congenital heart surgeon works with patients with congenital heart defects—whether they are three hours old, three years old, or 30 years old.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The best part of my work is helping the children and patients under my care. Giving people a chance to have a good life—a better life—and helping their families is very rewarding. I also value teaching. I want to help train the aspiring doctors or future medical professionals who will one day replace me so that together we’ll be able to help everyone who needs us.

How will your research interests help patients?

I have a great interest in mechanical support systems for the heart. A growing number of people could benefit from mechanical support devices, such as a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD), but the patient population is not very well served by currently available medical options. Advancements in mechanical support would make a big difference these for patients. Fortunately, University of Minnesota is involved in lots of exciting studies and clinical trials.