Tom Moran put it off when his cardiologist, Christopher Allen, MD, of St. Anthony’s Heart Specialty Associates, began expressing concerns about Tom’s aortic valve. Semi-retired, Tom stays busy completing items on the honey-do list of his wife, Barbara, and spending time with their granddaughter, Sophie.
“The diagnosis was aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aortic valve), which evolved into severe aortic stenosis,” recalled Tom, 82. “My body was having more difficulty pumping the blood and building up blood pressure, but I didn’t notice any symptoms.”
Tom was introduced to St. Anthony’s cardiothoracic surgeons Seiichi Noda, MD, and Umraan Ahmad, MD, who performed the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure along with Christopher Allen and the interventional cardiology team. During this minimally invasive procedure, a team of doctors inserts a new aortic valve inside the patient’s diseased valve. The valve is guided to its location via a catheter, through a small incision in the leg.
Dr. Ahmad recalled their visits.
“Tom was a guy who was very active and very functional, but had one of the worst valves I’d seen in a long time,” he said. “And he kept telling me that he had no symptoms at all and he felt fine, and I spent six months trying to convince him not to wait until it was too late. When I saw him a month after the surgery, he felt so much better – he told me, ‘I didn’t realize how sick I was.’”
The valve team performed the surgery in the endovascular operating room, a combination of an OR and catheterization lab. On hand were nurses, the OR staff, a perfusionist, cardiac anesthesiologist, imaging cardiologist, an echocardiology technician, one to two surgeons, and one to two interventional cardiologists.
“Typically, with these procedures, people go home within one to three days,” Dr. Ahmad said. “With no incision to heal, especially for our more senior patients, they bounce back quicker without losing as much of their strength and vitality.”
Sandra Meyer assumed she was just out of shape when she experienced upper chest and jaw pain while trying to keep up with her husband on walks. But a simple stress test ordered by Sandra Meyer’s primary care physician, Neera Sharda, MD, led her to open-heart surgery with St. Anthony’s cardiothoracic surgeon Seiichi Noda, MD.
After she underwent the stress test at St. Anthony’s Heart Specialty Associates in September, cardiologist Michael Goldmeier, MD, referred Sandra for a cardiac catheterization. The procedure revealed Sandra had too many blocked vessels for a simple angioplasty and stent procedure. Her primary-care physician recommended Dr. Noda, who performed an off-pump heart bypass procedure.
“I had wonderful care,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Noda and his staff.”
With Sandra’s surgery, Dr. Noda performed a “beating heart bypass,” which doesn’t use a heart-lung machine and doesn’t stop the heart.
“Typically, when we do an operation like that, the operation goes much quicker and we’re usually successful at getting the breathing tube out of the patient after the surgery while they’re still in the operating room,” Dr. Noda said.
Even people who are aware of heart problems may not suspect they have them, said Dr. Noda, who himself had a blockage in one of his blood vessels recently, and ended up having a stent placed after having a CT scan.
“I think the most important thing is to see your doctor on a regular basis, especially if you have a family history of a problem, or you’re having symptoms that don’t quite feel normal to you,” Dr. Noda said. “Say you exercise on a regular basis and you never experience discomfort in your chest when you exercise, and now you start feeling it. And if you’re diabetic, it’s important to make sure you keep in touch with your doctor, because diabetics have much higher incidence of heart disease.”