Is Paul’s Scar On The Wrong Side?
By Adam Pick on October 11, 2008
Did Doctor Vaughn Starnes, one of leading heart valve surgeons, make a mistake when he performed minimally invasive aortic heart valve replacement on Paul? Scroll down and read Paul’s email to find out why his incision scar is on the right side of his chest!
That first week after getting home from my surgery with Dr. Starnes… I was on top of the world. I felt like I was ready to get back to work. During week three, however, the bottom fell out and the pain set in. Then, the exhaustion just kicked my butt.
Luckily, I had my post-op with Dr. Starnes’s office and Bob Sachs, his physician’s assistant. They sat my wife and I down and reminded us that even though it was called ‘minimally invasive aortic valve replacement surgery‘, the procedure is still very invasive. With his guidance, I realized that I had been ahead of the recovery curve – out of ICU in 24 hours, all drains and IVs removed within 36 hours and home in just 3 1/2 days, walking 2 miles a day within a week of getting home. My body was telling me to slow down.
Now, I am in a pretty good frame of mind. I am still very easily fatigued and know my first week back to work will be a bear. But, cabin fever has also set in now.
The photo (above) is seven days post surgery. Again, this was minimally invasive, aortic valve replacement only. I opted for a Medtronics Mosaic porcine valve. The scar, now at four weeks, is a three-inch, pink, thin, straight line. As a man, it wouldn’t bother me at all if it never improved. My wife says that even on a female, the scar would be very slight and mainly covered by even a small tank top. Both my cardiologist (Doctor Horth), Dr. Starnes and Bob Sachs say it will continue to improve over the next year. I doubt it will be noticeable in 6 months.
The biggest drawback of this type of surgery – and it may be nothing compared to a median sternotomy (see picture below) – is the bruising pain and soft tissue pain from the center of the chest to the spine in a line about three inches below the scar to about three inches above the scar. There was initially a lot of nerve issues (burning, tingling and numbness across the same area and down the right arm) but the majority of those sensations are now resolved and deemed normal by Dr. Starnes’ staff.
Picture Of Adam’s Median Sternotomy Scar
A HUMOROUS SIDENOTE: Almost everyone who sees the scar asks, “Why is your scar on the wrong side?” As you can see from the photo, my scar is on the right-hand side. Everyone automatically does their ‘pledge of allegiance’ pose and says, “Your surgeon went in the wrong side!” I never got a great answer from anyone, but apparently Dr. Starnes goes in that way as it gives him the best access to the aortic valve.
Thanks again for all of your support.
This blog and your heart valve surgery book are great!
Donald Henry says on October 12th, 2008 at 9:31 am
I never knew the surgeons could do a sternotomy to the right of center.
firstname.lastname@example.org says on October 13th, 2008 at 2:24 pm
Just wanted to thank Paul for giving us a giggle today.
Ed Williams says on October 13th, 2008 at 8:19 pm
This is the first time I’ve heard of this new approach. What are the advantages? Did he go between your ribs rather than section the sternum? I am slated for an AVR at the end of the month with a “traditional” minimally invasive (3 to 4 inch partial stermum section) and would like to discuss this new approach if there are advantages.
Best of luck on your recovery!