Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog

Get the latest news, patient advice and insights about heart valve surgery from Adam Pick, patient, author and website founder

Denise Praises Dr. Bleiweis After Eli’s Heart Valve Surgery

I have the privilege of speaking with caregivers from all over the world.

As many of us know, heart valve surgery can be just as trying on the caregivers as it is on the patients. For this reason, many of their stories are both emotional and inspirational. That said, I thought you might like to read an email from Denise about her son, Eli, and his recent aortic heart valve repair:


Eli & Dr. Marc Bleiweis

Hi Adam,  I am writing to bring you up to date on Eli’s surgery and recovery. We chose to stay at Shands Hospital with Dr. Mark Bleiweis for Eli’s heart valve repair.

Eli’s surgery was performed on July 13th and went very well. Eli did have some flutter issues while in the hospital and had to be paced several times. Eventually, Eli was placed on medication (Pacerone) to help.

Thankfully, Doctor Bleiweis was able to repair Eli’s valve with a tissue patch. Doctor Bleiweis and the entire staff at Shands were the most amazing, compassionate professionals. The medical team made our family feel extremely comfortable in their care of Eli, which greatly reduced my stress level.

You know how we moms are… Dr. Bleiweis’ team was sooooooooooo patient with my list of several hundred questions! 🙂

We came home with Eli taking Lasix, Pacerone, Baby Aspirin, and Iron. Like you, Eli was anemic after heart surgery. He started having headaches and eye sensitivity to light. I called Dr. Fricke (the cardiologist) and was immediately referred to an eye specialist because Pacerone can cause eye damage. After learning that Eli did not have any eye damage, I was concerned that the reduction in the medications could cause his flutter to return.

Since we live almost two hours from the hospital, we kept Eli monitored very closely for the next few days with no change in his heart rate. We went back for a check up and he is now off his medications and is doing very well.

We feel truly blessed to have people like you, Dr. Bleiweis, Dr. Fricker, and the wonderful Shands staff help us through this life changing experience. Thanks again for your heart valve surgery book!

May God Bless,
Denise Rountree

More Data On The MitraClip For Mitral Regurgitation Treatment

As we have discussed before, most minimally invasive treatments for heart valve disease continue to show encouraging results. Recently, additional results for high-tech devices from Edwards Lifesciences, Medtronic and Evalve have been posted.

Specific to the MitraClip for mitral valve repair, I just saw an announcement which detailed the results of 107 patients for the nonrandomized Everest 1 and 2 studies.

  • A full 66% of patients did not require surgery and maintained a mitral regurgitation grade of less than 2 at 12 months, the primary efficacy end point of the study.
  • In all, 32 patients needed mitral valve replacement surgery within 3.2 years of receiving the MitraClip. Of these procedures, 84% were successful.
  • 9%, had a major adverse event during the follow-up period, including one non-procedure-related death.
  • Overall procedural success was 74%, and 64% left hospital with a mitral-regurgitation grade of 1 or less, as opposed to grade 3 or 4 at study entry.
  • In all, 32 patients needed mitral-valve surgery within 3.2 years of receiving the MitraClip.

“Surgical options were preserved,” the authors, led by Dr Ted Feldman (Evanston Hospital, IL), write in the August 18, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. “The fact that there were no in-cath lab deaths during this procedure in over 100 patients compared with, for example, stent therapy, shows that this is acceptable in terms of safety, all the more so given that this is a brand new intervention,” Feldman told heartwire.

Investigators also highlighted the “steep learning curve” seen in the study, with the first 30 procedures taking over four hours, while the last 30 typically took under three hours.

A randomized trial, comparing percutaneous mitral-valve repair with the MitraClip with surgical valve replacement or repair is ongoing; one-year follow-up will be completed in October, Feldman said. The MitraClip received a CE mark in Europe last year.

Keep on tickin!

“Did You Exercise Before Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Leticia

I just received a great question from Leticia about exercise prior to heart valve surgery.

Leticia writes, “Hi Adam, I have been diagnosed with a bi-cuspid aortic heart valve. I have no symptoms or shortness of breath. My cardiologist hopes I can go for another 10 years without surgery. I’m concerned about my hobbies, which are aerobics and I teach ballet. I love my exercise and my doctor states that I don’t have to change my lifestyle unless I’m feeling symptoms. I’ve just read stories about athletic people having to reduce activity until after surgery. I don’t want to pass out one day and seriously injure or kill myself. Do you have any other info on exercise and bi-cuspid aortic heart valve? Thank you, Leticia”

As Leticia alludes, valvular disorders can negatively impact heart function during exercise for patients prior to heart valve surgery.

In fact, I just posted a patient story about Randy, from Wisconsin, who fainted while bike riding due to a bicuspid aortic valve. (Thankfully, everything worked out okay for Randy.)


Randy – Fainted During Bike Riding

At the same time, other patients – under medical supervision – engage in exercise to enhance their physical condition prior to heart valve surgery. For example, Sylvia Woolworth lost 35 pounds leading up to her heart valve replacement.

Sylvia Woolworth Loses 35 Pounds Prior To Aortic Valve Replacement
Sylvia – Lost 35 Pounds

As for me, my cardiologist restricted all exercise when it was determined that I needed an aortic valve replacement. However, I was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis, severe regurgitation and a dilated heart. Like Leticia, I was born with a congenital bicuspid aortic valve.

Specific to Leticia’s situation, I do not know the specific details of her valve disease progression (e.g. mild, moderate, or severe). That said, I would suggest that Leticia contact her cardiologist to better understand the severity of the disorder and its impact upon her exercise routine, if any.

One last note… I would also suggest to Leticia that symptom manifestation may not be the best, definitive indicator for timing heart valve surgery. So you know, I was asymptomatic but my heart was already enlarged. That said, I think all patients should be actively monitored on a yearly basis following initial diagnosis.

I hope that helps explain a little more about exercise before heart valve replacement surgery!

Keep on tickin!

Teppo Numinen Needing Heart Valve Surgery!

As patients, we are confronted with a fundamental choice.

That choice appears in our lives when the cardiologist says something like, “The test results shows that your valve is severely diseased… To treat this, you will need heart surgery.”

In that moment, we can choose to perceive heart surgery as an isolating roadblock full of fear and morbidity. Or, we can elect to see heart valve surgery for what it truly is… a medical miracle that extends life with some calculated risk.

As you may have noticed, I use this blog to encourage patients and their caregivers to actively choose the latter perspective. Often, I share actual patient stories to illustrate this point and inspire future patients. From experience, I know it’s incredibly helpful to learn from other patients who have already been through this process.

On that note… Teppo Numminen has been a role model for many patients in the heart valve community. In case you are not familiar with Numminen’s story, consider that this professional hockey player not only had heart valve surgery but returned to the physically grueling sport only 9 months post-op.

Continue reading this post »

Looking For Volunteers To Help Our Cause!

Hi everybody,

Since launching this blog years ago, I have continuously asked our community, “How can I improve this website?”

Thankfully… You have not been shy with your constructive criticisms and thoughtful comments. As a result, we have collectively enhanced this blog and developed new tools/capabilities to help patients through the heart valve surgery process (e.g. the heart valve surgeon database).

Now, I am excited to share with you the following… Over the past few months, I have integrated many of your suggestions into a very new, very unique and very free Internet application designed to support patients and their caregivers during the entire surgical process – from diagnosis into recovery. The programming of this application is almost complete.

That said, I am looking for several volunteers to help test this online tool. Do you have any interest in “test driving” this new application? If so, please leave me a comment by clicking here or emailing me.

[UPDATE: Thanks everybody for your quick response!!! I now have more than enough patients to help with this beta test. If I need additional help, I will let you know!]

Keep on tickin!

P.S. To leave a comment, click here.

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