Assistant Professor

Heather Baltzer

Department of Surgery


Toronto Western Hospital: University Health Network (UHN)
399 Bathurst St. , 2 East Wing, Rm. 422, Toronto, Ontario Canada M5T 2S8
Research Interests
Genetics Genomics & Proteomics, Human Development & Aging
Appointment Status

Dr. Baltzer is a hand surgeon with a strong interest in hand and wrist arthritis. Specifically she focuses on translational proteomics to investigate systemic and joint-specific biomarkers related to the development and progression of symptomatic osteoarthritis in the hand and wrist.This information has the potential application of understanding disease progression and predicting response to OA treatment based on patient reported outcomes.

Dr. Heather Baltzer completed both her undergraduate medical training and residency training in Plastic Surgery from the University of Toronto. Prior to her medical training, Heather completed an MSc in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.  Following residency, she spent a year obtaining subspecialty fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN in hand and wrist surgery. Heather is currently enrolled in a Masters of Science program in Clinical Epidemiology at the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. She is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Surgery and Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto.  She is a research collaborator in the Department of Surgery at Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Baltzer’s clinical practice focuses primarily on hand and wrist surgery.  A large proportion of her patients suffer from primary osteoarthritis and post-traumatic arthritis of the small joints of hand and the wrist.  Acute traumatic hand injuries are also a large part of her patient population.  Both acute and chronic hand pathology have significant functional implications for patients.

Dr. Baltzer presents her research at international hand surgery meetings and has published several articles in leading hand surgery and plastic surgery journals.  She has joined a team of researchers with specific expertise in cartilage biology that have established an Osteoarthritis tissue Biobank, enabling osteoarthritis research at the genomic and proteomic level.   Dr. Baltzer is a member of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons.


Research Synopsis


Osteoarthritis (OA) is chronic and debilitating condition.  The multi-factorial nature of OA includes both biomechanical and physiologic contributions.  The biomechanical contribution to OA development is largely eliminated in the hands, unlike other joints in the body.  The study of hand and wrist OA allows us to better examine the systemic inflammatory and metabolic changes in isolation from the biomechanical effect of weight bearing and obesity. I am intersted in two main foci:(1) the relationship between obesity, systemic and joint specific metabolic biomarkers and symptomatic arthritis in a non-weightbearing hand and wrist joints and (2) examining the mechanism for metabolic and inflammatory biomarker production in the joint by analyzing joint tissue (synovium/synoviocytes and osteochondral samples). As a clinician currently in a clinical epidemiology training program, I am intersted in translating these biomarker profiles to patient symptoms and the potential for good outcomes following surgical and non-surgical OA treatment.


Recent Publications


Baltzer, H.L. and Moran, S.L. The biomechanical impact of digital loss and fusion following trauma: setting the patient up for success. Hand Clinics, September 2016

Baltzer H.L., Roy, M, McMillan, C, Novak, C, McCabe, S, Binhammer, P, Von Schroeder, H. A Mixed-Methods Assessment of Direct and Indirect Patient Costs Following Hand Trauma. Plastic Surgery, Accepted for Publication.

Baltzer, H.L., Wagner, E., Kircher, M., Spinner, R.J., Bishop, A.T., Shin, A.Y. Axillary Nerve Reconstruction: Sural Nerve Cable Graft Pull-Through Technique.  Comparison of Functional Outcomes Among Isolated Axillary Nerve Injury Patients Following Interpositional Nerve Grafting and Triceps Motor Branch Nerve Transfer. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Accepted for Publication.

Baltzer H.L., Wagner, E., Kircher, M., Spinner, R.J., Bishop, A.T. and Shin, A.Y. Evaluation of Infraspinatus Reinnervation and Function Following Spinal Accessory Nerve to Suprascapular Nerve Transfer in Adult Traumatic Brachial Plexus Injuries. Journal of Microsurgery, Accepted for Publication.

Baltzer, H.L., Woo, A., Moran, S.L. Comparison of Ulnar Intrinsic Function following Supercharged End-to-Side AIN Transfer to Ulnar Motor Nerve: A Matched Cohort of Study High Ulnar Nerve Injury Patients. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Accepted for Publication.

Baltzer, H.L., Winocour, S., Harless, C., Saint-Cyr, M. Lymphaticovenous Bypass: Adaptations and Lessons Learned. Accepted for publication in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery GO

Baltzer, H., Alonzo-Proulx, O., Yaffe, M, Warner, E, Metcalfe, K, and Semple , J.L. “MRI volumetric analysis of breast fibroglandular tissue to assess risk of the spared nipple in BRCA 1/2 mutation carriers" Annals of Surgical Oncology (2014) 21(5): 1583-8.

Baltzer, H, Novak, C.B., and McCabe, S.J. “A Scoping Review for Disability of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand Scores for Hand and Wrist Conditions.” Journal of Hand Surgery (2014), 39 (12): 2472-2480.

Baltzer, H., Binhammer, P.A., “Cost-effectiveness in the Management of Dupuytren's Contracture: A Canadian Cost-Utility Analysis.” Bone and Joint Journal (2013) 95B (8): 1094-1100