Monday, October 10, 2011

The Surgeon's Report

Last Thursday (October 6, 2011), my parents and I went to meet with the surgical director for the Program for Adult Congenital Heart Disease at Northwestern. Assuming I go forward with the procedure at Northwestern (which I fully expect I will be doing), he is the person who will be performing the surgery. I was very pleased with the meeting, and I feel that he answered all my questions candidly and completely. He also allowed me to audio record the whole conversation, so I'll be able to retain that for future reference.

In brief summary, the six to seven hour surgery will consist of two major components:
  1. Removing the aneurysmal tissue in my pulmonary artery and re-patching the artery. A Gore-Tex patch will be used, and he expects it will safely last for the rest of my natural life. (That said, he was very impressed with the durability and longevity of the original pericardium patch that was put on during my first surgery 30 years ago.) This procedure will fix the aneurysm, as well as the narrowing of the one branch of the pulmonary artery. Currently, the aneurysm is pushing up against this branch, causing it to be narrowed.
  2. Replacing the pulmonary valve with a cow (pericardium) valve. Even though this valve may have to be replaced in 15 to 20 years, that procedure can be done through a heart cath, as opposed to another surgery. (He doesn't want to replace the valve with a mechanical one, which would require me to be on Coumadin. So I'm a fan of that decision!)
Although Northwestern only does about 40 to 50 heart surgeries annually on adults with congenial heart defects (After all, the pool isn't all that big to begin with.), they do a total of about 1,000 open heart surgeries each year. this surgeon personally does over 200 open heart surgeries per year (between Northwestern and Children's Memorial), and the procedure that I need to have done is—in his world, at least—very common and straightforward. He has a 0% mortality rate post-surgery (which I truly appreciated hearing). Post-op infection rates over the life of the patient range between 2% and 5%.

He fully expects that my surgery and recovery will go smoothly and that I will be back to cycling and my regular activities in no time. Prior to this appointment, my cardiologist told him that I was a pretty avid cyclist. When the surgeon asked what the greatest distance I had ridden was, I smiled when I told him about the 7-day, 565-mile ride last year in California (with the longest single day of riding being 107 miles). His jaw nearly dropped when he heard this, so he was quite impressed with that fact.

Next steps: I have a dentist appointment later this week to get the dental clearance I need before having the surgery. This is done to ensure that no oral infections are present, which could potentially spread to the new valve. Once I have that done, I plan to schedule the surgery at Northwestern later this fall. I already have a call in to the surgeon's nurse, who is checking calendars for available dates during the first full week of December.

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