Inova Schar Heart and Vascular: a premier destination for the highest quality cardiovascular care

Christopher M. O’Connor, MD, MACC, is the President of Inova Schar Heart and Vascular. He is an internationally renowned authority on heart failure and practices at the Inova Cardiology – Fairfax office.

Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the nation and in Virginia. The toll is particularly high in those over 65 and among Blacks, Hispanics and women. Inova Schar Heart and Vascular is committed to early diagnosis and the use of treatment protocols to assure the consistent use of best practices to slow or halt disease progression.

This is accomplished through excellence on three fronts: programs, platforms and people.


Inova distinguishes itself through a team-based model of care that integrates the expertise of multiple medical specialties to provide a comprehensive approach to cardiovascular disease. Here is a brief summary of a few of our team-based, specialized care programs.

Women’s heart health

While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease is the cause of death for one out of every three women. We are strongly committed to helping women understand and reduce their risks for heart attacks and stroke through screenings to identify at-risk patients, timely diagnoses and customized treatment plans. A specialized team also addresses cardiovascular issues related to care during and following pregnancy, as well as cardiovascular concerns during menopause.


Cancer and cardiovascular disease have many shared risk factors. Recognizing them early is critical in guiding treatment. Our multidisciplinary team works closely with Inova Schar Cancer specialists to identify patients at high risk, monitor levels of toxicity and implement cancer treatment with close cardiovascular follow-up care.

Adult congenital heart disease

Adult patients with congenital heart disease present diagnostic and treatment challenges and have better outcomes when managed through a specialized and integrated multidisciplinary program. Inova Schar Heart and Vascular provides specialty care related to acquired cardiovascular disease, comorbidities and pregnancy to address the unique needs of this population.

Cardiogenic shock

Inova’s leadership in the treatment of cardiogenic shock, a life-threatening condition that can quickly progress to multiorgan failure and death, as well as our team’s expertise in advanced interventional procedures are recognized on national and international levels. The shock treatment algorithm Inova’s team developed has been widely disseminated throughout the region, with Inova Schar Heart and Vascular serving as the hub for the most complex cases and used as a best practice model of care nationally and internationally.

More than 340 patients with cardiogenic shock were treated at Inova in the past year, with survival rates greater than 80%, well above the national average of <50%.

Advanced heart and lung disease

In 2023, our team performed 51 heart transplants, 46 lung transplants and four heart-lung transplants. Inova is currently the only provider to perform combined heart-lung transplants throughout Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Inova’s advanced heart failure team has been on the cutting edge of developing novel and less invasive methods to detect post-transplant complications, combat transplant rejection and enhance patient outcomes. This work has resulted in a patent on methods for identifying transplant rejection or risk of rejection.

Our advanced lung disease and transplant team also had a record-setting year. The team is a vital component in the treatment of patients whose advanced heart disease has compromised lung function and for patients with advanced lung disease whose heart function has been affected.

Atrial fibrillation center

Inova employs a multidisciplinary, data-driven approach to the management of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a common heart rhythm disorder that can lead to stroke. Our innovative Inova AFib Center facilitates integrated, coordinated, comprehensive care for AFib, incorporating up to six medical specialists to address underlying risk factors. The center represents a significant improvement over the standard practice for treatment.

Minimally invasive procedures

Inova is one of a small number of heart centers in the United States to offer robotic-assisted heart bypass surgery, allowing faster recovery and lower risk of complications than traditional open heart surgery. Patients who would otherwise not have been surgical candidates due to frailty, comorbidities or social factors can have access to this lifesaving procedure.

Nonsurgical, minimally invasive catheter-based treatments to repair narrowed arteries, weakened blood vessels and heart valve problems are increasingly performed at Inova using the transradial technique. In the transradial approach, the heart is accessed through an artery in the wrist, allowing faster recovery, less pain and less bleeding.


We continue to develop and refine innovative platforms to predict disease progression and deliver timely, effective and personalized care. Artificial Intelligence and data analytics are being used to develop a novel heart failure severity score to identify at-risk patients, improve the accuracy of diagnostic tests, and track disparities in procedures and treatment. Availability of wearables and remote patient monitoring are important tools in providing convenient and effective care in the hospital setting and remotely.


Most important of all is our focus on people and culture. We are proud of our team of highly talented and specially trained physicians, nurses, advanced practice providers and technologists and are continuing our efforts to recruit and retain the best and brightest.

Research, innovation and academic excellence

Our team participates in cutting-edge clinical research. This allows our patients to have access to state-of-the-art treatment options and contributes to raising the standard of care for all patients with cardiovascular and lung disease. Our research covers a broad range of cardiovascular, vascular and advanced lung conditions, and our team members present at major national and international meetings, serve on editorial boards, and consistently publish in high-impact professional journals. We are awarded competitive grants from the federal government, foundations and industry, and we collaborate with top academic centers throughout the world.

Outreach and health equity

Service and outreach to underserved members of our community is an important priority for Inova Schar Heart and Vascular. We remain strongly committed to eliminating disparities in care and reaching out to the community to provide information and early diagnosis. Our volunteer clinical teams have screened and educated hundreds through health fairs and other events oriented to underserved populations.

Grateful to our donors

This year, we were honored to receive a transformational $75 million donation from Dwight and Martha Schar. We have also been fortunate to benefit from several other major donors, who are making exceptional philanthropic investments toward furthering our commitment to comprehensive cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary care.

Recognition for excellence

U.S. News & World Report continues to recognize our program as high performing in several heart and vascular conditions and procedures, and we were included on Healthgrades’ list of the top 50 hospitals in the U.S. that deliver superior patient outcomes in heart bypass surgery and heart valve surgery. We have also received recognition for excellence from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the World Association of Sarcoidosis and other Granulomatous Disorders, the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, the American Heart Association, the Mitral Foundation, the Heart Failure Society of America, and the American College of Cardiology.

Inova Schar Heart and Vascular is leading the way in heart and vascular health. Find a specialist near you.

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