Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Basically Official

I received a phone call last evening from my cardiologist informing me that he had met with the surgeon, who agreed with the recommendation that I proceed with the surgery to address the pulmonary artery aneurysm. In all honesty, the call was no surprise, and I had been mentally preparing myself since the initial visit to the cardiologist two weeks ago. I was on the phone with him for over 40 minutes, as he patiently and calmly talked me through the next steps, some of the details about what he and the surgeon discussed, and answered every last question I had (including many that I know I asked him when we met the first time). While I'm not necessarily looking forward to the surgery, I am grateful that this issue was discovered now before it turned into an emergency situation at a future date. Because I hadn't continued with regular cardiology visits since approximately 2001, there's a lapse in my medical records; and as a result, it's difficult to determine whether the enlarged artery is something I've had for an extended period of time or if it developed in recent history.

Just this morning, I was able to get my next two appointments scheduled: the pre-op consultation with the surgeron and a cardiac catheterization (or heart cath).

Pre-Op Consultation
Next week, I will be meeting with the surgeon who (assuming I decide to go forward with it at Northwestern) will actually be performing the surgery. He and the cardiologist regularly work closely together, both split their time between Northwestern and Children's Memorial Hospital, and both have extensive experience with both pediatric and adult congenital heart patients. If the surgeon is anything like the cardiologist has been in terms of his approach to working with patients, I will be very pleased and grateful!

At the appointment, the doctor will go into more detail about the proposed procedure, the overall process, and the recovery and rehab periods; and he will answer whatever questions I have. (Hopefully he's patient, as I already have a growing list of questions to bring with me.) I will also be bringing a family member or two with me just so that other people are hearing all the details, and I intend to request permission to audio record our discussion so that I can be sure I'm capturing all the details that are discussed.

Cardiac Catheterization
Near the end of  October, I will be returning to Northwestern for a cardiac catheterization. The heart cath is typically an all-day, outpatient appointment. The procedure can be done for a variety of reasons. Mine is being done specifically to get a better assessment of my heart's hemodynamics (or blood movement). While the MRI that I had done last month was able to provide excellent images of the heart, the catheterization is being done to get a better measure of the blood pressure within the heart and oxygen in the blood. The results will help to decide which additional procedures should be done during the surgery.

In addition to detecting the pulmonary artery aneurysm (the primary reason for the recommended surgery), the MRI and the other tests that I had done provided additional details about four other issues present in my heart:
  1. pulmonary valve insufficiency,
  2. pulmonary valve stenosis,
  3. pulmonary artery stenosis of central branch, and
  4. NVST (nonsustained ventricular tachycardia).
In my case, the cardiologist informed me that none of these additional diagnoses would warrant heart surgery in and of themselves. However, since the surgery is already being recommended for the pulmonary artery aneurysm, the doctors want to determine if it makes sense to correct any of these other problems during the same procedure since they would already be in there. The heart cath will help the doctors assess the situation and guide their recommendations in this area.

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