Novel Transcatheter Approach to Heart Repair a First for St. Peter’s Hospital

St. Peter’s Health Partners is advancing heart care at St. Peter’s Hospital with its first-ever transcatheter closure of a ventricular septal defect (VSD). The complex cardiac surgical procedure repaired a hole in a 70-year-old woman’s heart and helped her avoid open-heart surgery.

The patient, Maryann Milton, is a dental assistant at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany. At the age of three, Maryann became one of the first children in South Carolina to undergo open-heart surgery for congenital defects. Doctors, at the time, told her family she was lucky to have survived. The recovery was difficult and something Maryann never wished to repeat. But in 2023, Maryann found herself faced with the possibility. She had developed severe shortness of breath that doctors determined was caused by an enlarged heart, the result of a VSD. The standard treatment – open-heart surgery – was something Maryann desperately wanted to avoid.

Colin Hirst, M.D., FACC, FSCAI, interventional and structural heart specialist at Albany Associates in Cardiology, met with the multidisciplinary heart team at St. Peter’s Hospital and determined Maryann was a candidate for a novel transcatheter approach that could spare her from reliving her childhood surgical experience.

The St. Peter’s team collaborated with Thomas Forbes, M.D., a world-renowned pediatric interventional cardiologist and expert in VSD repair at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Florida, as well as J.D. Filippone, M.D., chief of cardiology at St. Peter’s Hospital, Eric Roccario, M.D., Albany Associates in Cardiology, and industry partners from Abbott Cardiovascular, to evaluate, plan, and execute the non-invasive procedure to successfully close the hole in Maryann’s heart.

“Thanks to this team effort, our patient didn’t have to travel to New York City or Boston. She was able to be treated in the city where she lives,” said Dr. Hirst, who has previously performed the procedure at other hospitals. “Everyone involved – from our general cardiologists to interventional and structural imaging specialists, nurses, and cardiothoracic surgeons — worked together seamlessly to develop a thorough approach addressing this patient’s complex needs to get her back to doing what she loves.”

“This type of highly successful collaboration illustrates the world-class cardiac care that St. Peter’s Hospital offers and is why it is consistently ranked as one of the top hospitals in New York state,” said Steven Hanks, M.D., president and CEO of St. Peter’s Health Partners and St. Joseph’s Health. “We are extremely proud of our structural heart team for their dedication to patient care and for the international expertise they bring to our neighborhood communities right here in the Capital Region.”

A VSD is a hole in the wall that separates the lower left and right ventricles of the heart. Not everyone with the congenital defect will need surgery. If the hole is very small, it typically will not cause symptoms. However, if the hole is large, over time it can lead to elevated pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs and decreased oxygen levels in the body.

In the catheter-based approach, a guidewire is inserted into the femoral artery near the groin and advanced to heart. Under fluoroscopic guidance, a sheath is placed over the wire and is used to deliver an “occluder device” to the site of the defect. The device is expanded like a balloon to close the defect. This minimally invasive approach results in a smaller incision, shorter hospital stay, and fewer complications.

After her procedure, Maryann was released from the hospital the following day. She was back at the gym within a few days and on the elliptical machine two weeks later.

Maryann says being able to have the procedure done right in the Capital Region saved her a lot of stress and inconvenience, and she is grateful to have been spared having to undergo a major operation.

“I feel that God has me here for a purpose,” said Maryann. “Having this procedure makes me feel confident that I should keep doing what I’m doing. It’s wonderful.”

About St. Peter’s Hospital
St. Peter’s Hospital, an affiliate of St. Peter’s Health Partners, is the largest Catholic acute care community hospital in northeastern New York state. Located in Albany, New York, the hospital was founded in 1869 by the Religious Sisters of Mercy. In 2023 and 2024, U.S. News & World Report named St. Peter’s Hospital one of the best hospitals in New York state for the 10th year in a row. It ranked 13th among more than 200 hospitals in New York state, and #1 in the Capital Region. It was also ranked the best hospital in the Capital Region by readers of the Albany Times Union.

St. Peter’s Hospital offers a comprehensive range of inpatient and outpatient services and diverse outreach programs in the areas of women’s and children’s services, neonatal intensive care, rehabilitation, surgery, ambulatory care, outpatient medical imaging, and care for the elderly. For more information, please visit

About St. Peter’s Health Partners
With 11,000 employees in more than 185 locations, St. Peter’s Health Partners is one of the Capital Region’s largest and most comprehensive not-for-profit integrated health care networks, and provides high-quality, compassionate, and sophisticated care to thousands of people every day. St. Peter’s Health Partners is a member of Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest Catholic health systems. For more information, please visit




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