No More “Walking Time Bomb” for Tom After Valve-Sparing Aortic Root Replacement

By Adam Pick on July 12, 2019

Being diagnosed with severe heart disease can be incredibly dislocating for patients, their family and friends.   That dislocation is often amplified when the diagnosis is unexpected and the patient is asymptomatic.

Tom Tansor – a father, husband and little league coach from Chicago – describes the unexpected and anxious experience of being diagnosed with a severe aortic aneurysm as feeling like a “walking time bomb”.   Tom knew the situation was bad.  Tom knew the aneurysm needed to be replaced.  But, after meeting with Dr. Chris Malaisrie, Tom was hopeful he could keep his own aortic valve in a complex procedure known as a “valve-sparing aortic root replacement”.

This is Tom’s story…



After interviewing Tom for this video in Chicago, I can tell you that Tom has made a full and complete recovery.   You wouldn’t even know that Tom had open heart surgery to fix his aortic aneurysm but keep his aortic valve.  Tom is doing everything he did before the surgery and he’s feeling great.  Woo-Whoo!!!

There are so many great points in this video, I want to jot them down quickly:

  • Being diagnosed with a severe aortic aneurysm is not always an emergent situation requiring immediate cardiac surgery.  While I have heard several stories about patients needing emergency surgery, the patient is not always at immediate risk of a dissection or rupture.  That said, I strongly encourage all patients to closely watch and monitor any aneurysm or valve disease with the support of an expert medical team.
  • Similar to heart valve disease, patients with aortic aneurysms are often asymptomatic (without symptoms).
  • The normal diameter of an aortic aneurysm is 2 to 3 centimeters. Severe aortic aneurysms can swell to 5 to 6 centimeters which can lead to a rupture or dissection.
  • “Valve sparing aortic root replacement” is a complex procedure that enables the patient to keep his or her own aortic valve while removing a bulging aneurysm.  The valve is “spared” while the aneurysm is replaced with a polyester graft, also known as a Dacron graft.
  • Specialists, including Dr. Chris Malaisrie, have seen excellent surgical outcomes for patients undergoing a valve-sparing aortic root replacement procedure.

Many thanks to Tom Tansor for sharing his story with our community.  A special thanks goes out to Dr. Chris Malaisrie and the entire Northwestern Medicine team for taking such great care of Tom and his family.  Great job!

Keep on tickin’ Tom!

P.S. I have provided a written transcript of this video below for the hearing impaired members of our community.

Tom Tansor: My name’s Tom. I’m from Chicago. I’m a husband and father of three. I love to spend time with my kids. I coach little league baseball, softball, and basketball.  I enjoy running and exercising — being active and enjoying Chicago. I received a phone call from my primary care physician here at Northwestern who told me that I had a 5.5 centimeter aortic aneurysm.  I felt like a walking time bomb. The anxiety that I had in the unknown of what this meant.  I just knew it was bad.

Dr. Chris Malaisrie:  An aortic aneurysm is a local ballooning of the very large blood vessel that takes blood from the heart and distributes it to the rest of the body. The aorta should have a diameter of about 2 to 3 centimeters. In patients with aortic aneurysms, they can have aortas the size of 5 to 6 centimeters, which puts the patient at risk for life-threatening rupture or dissection. Many patients with aortic aneurysms do not have any symptoms. If the patient does have symptoms, it becomes very important to seek medical attention very, very quickly.


Dr. Chris Malaisrie


Tom Tansor: When I met with Dr. Malaisrie, he and his nurse practitioners instantly made me feel better. It was urgent but it wasn’t an emergency where I was going to have to have the surgery that day.

Dr. Chris Malaisrie: Mr. Tansor was diagnosed with an aortic root aneurysm. I was very averse to replacing his aortic valve. My preference is to spare and repair the aortic valve. Because of that, I offered him a valve-sparing aortic root replacement. These are procedures that I’ve done for patients who have an aneurysm that is located around the aortic root. The reason this is more complex is because the aortic root is intimately involved with the aortic valve.



The valve-sparing aortic root replacement offers the opportunity to repair the aortic valve rather than to replace the aortic valve. The primary problem is an aortic root aneurysm, but the valve, which is right next to it, can become secondarily involved.  If the aortic valve becomes too leaky, the aortic valve is repaired, spared while replacing the aneurysm.  I’ve dedicated my career at Northwestern perfecting this procedure.  I can say after ten years of following my patients very closely.  I’m thrilled with the outcomes we’ve seen here.

Tom Tansor: Dr. Malaisrie and his team had a huge impact on my life. They were terrific to be with. They were understanding, responsive; made it almost very routine that they see this all the time. I think that we’re really lucky and fortunate to have Northwestern and a team like his here so close in Chicago.

Dr. Chris Malaisrie: Mr. Tansor is a success story after valve-sparing aortic root replacement. Even after such a complex operation, he only had four days in the hospital afterwards. I know Mr. Tansor is a runner and I fully expect him to be back running in the near future.



Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

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