Dr. Shunji Sano is a pediatric heart surgeon who cares for children born with heart defects. Over the course of his career, he has performed more than 7,000 pediatric cardiac surgeries.
Sano is world-renowned for surgical innovation. He pioneered a technique for hypoplastic left heart syndrome that is now known as the Sano procedure and has become the most popular treatment for the condition in early stages. He also developed a technique for protecting the brain during heart surgery and a measure called right ventricular overhaul to improve surgical treatment of a rare cardiac birth defect. He is the only provider in California trained in the Ozaki procedure, a method of repairing aortic valves using the patient's own pericardium (the membrane around the heart), which avoids certain risks of traditional surgery, as well as the only Bay Area doctor who provides cone repair, an improved procedure for treating Ebstein anomaly.
Sano's research interests include heart stimulation, neonatal surgery and progenitor cell therapy (a type of stem cell therapy). His work pioneered the use of cardiac progenitor cell therapy in Japan, where it has saved more than 50 patients with heart failure.
After earning his medical and doctoral degrees at Okayama University Medical School in Japan, Sano completed residencies in general surgery at Okayama University Hospital and Hiroshima City Hospital. He completed fellowships in cardiovascular surgery, cardiothoracic surgery and pediatric cadriothoracic surgery at Hyogo Kenritsu Amagasaki Hospital, Okayama University Medical School, Green Lane Hospital in New Zealand and the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia.
Sano became the youngest consultant cardiac surgeon in pediatrics at Royal Children's Hospital at age 37. At age 41, he became the youngest professor and chairman at Okayama University Medical School and served in those posts for 24 years.