Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog – Page 26

Medical Mission Update: In The Dominican Republic, Four Patients Get A “Second Chance” At Life

Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate, Author & Website Founder
Published: November 8, 2013

I recently traveled from Los Angeles to the Dominican Republic for a medical mission to treat patients with heart valve disease. Since I had never been on a mission, I didn’t know what to expect. After the mission, I can share that this five-day event altered my perception of human kindness. I was touched, moved and inspired by the patients, their families, the nurses and the doctors who came together for this extraordinary mission.

While in Santo Domingo, I saw four patients get a “second chance” at life. While in Santo Domingo, I saw three medical teams — Mount Sinai Hospital, Piedmont Heart Institute and Hospital General de la Plaza de la Salud — achieve surgical success. While in Santo Domingo, I also had a camera and a microphone which captured several beautiful moments on film. That said, I created the video below to share this experience with you.



On behalf of the patients, their families and friends, I would like to thank the Mitral Foundation for organizing and financially supporting this mission. In particular, I would like to thank Dr. David Adams, Dr. Ricardo Lazala and Gideon Sims for inviting me to Santo Domingo for the mission. I would also like to thank each person from The Mount Sinai Hospital and Piedmont Heart Institute teams including Dr. Gregory Fischer, Dr. Fred Lajam, Dr. Federico Milla, Dr. John Gott, Juan Obando and Mary Joy Santillan.

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Minimally Invasive Specialist, University of Virginia Advanced Cardiac Valve Center, Launches Microsite!

By Adam Pick on November 7, 2013

In 2010, I was very lucky to tour the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. During my visit, I observed a transcatheter MitraClip procedure performed by Dr. Scott Lim and Dr. Gorav Ailawadi.  Since then, I have met several other members of the UVA team — including Dr. Irving Kron and Dr. John Kern. Together, this team of dedicated cardiologists and surgeons has treated many patients in our community like Robert Elliot, Todd Breeden and Susan Houk.

For these reasons, I am very excited to announce that the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center just launched a Heart Valve Clinic Microsite at So you know, the University of Virginia provides patients many options for valvular care. As a complement to its traditional surgical approaches, the UVA team has also pioneered and participated in several clinical trials for minimally invasive techniques include transcatheter aortic valve replacement and mitral valve repair.


UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center Microsite


On behalf of the patient and caregiver community at, I would like to thank all of the members of the UVA Advanced Cardiac Valve Center for its support of our website — with a special thanks to Dr. Kron, Dr. Lim, Dr. Kern, Dr. Ailawadi, Meghan Bradley, Adam Printy and Ginger Aylor.

Keep on tickin!

Surgeon Q&A: The Rise of Tricuspid Heart Valve Surgery with Dr. McCarthy

By Adam Pick on November 5, 2013

You may have noticed that most patients in our community have been diagnosed with an aortic or mitral valve disorder. Recently, however, I’ve been contacted by several patients who have tricuspid valve defects.

As the tricuspid valve is often called the “forgotten valve” in medical literature, I wanted to help all patients learn more about the rise of tricuspid valve surgery. For that reason, I just filmed an educational video with Doctor Patrick McCarthy, a tricuspid valve surgeon from Northwestern Medicine.



I hope this video helped you learn more about the increase in tricuspid valve treatment in isolated cases and in concomitant mitral valve repair procedures. To learn more about tricuspid valve surgery, I encourage you to read “Evolving Trends in Tricuspid Valve Surgery”, an excellent research paper by Doctor McCarthy.

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John Fox, Denver Broncos Head Coach, Scheduled for Aortic Valve Replacement

By Adam Pick on November 3, 2013

Since launching this website in 2006, I have followed the heart valve procedures of many public figures including Robin Williams, Barbara Walters, Ed Koch, and Barbara Bush.

Yesterday, we learned that John Fox, the head coach of the Denver Broncos, is scheduled for an aortic valve replacement surgery on Tuesday. Coach Fox, who was aware of his valvular disorder, was planning to undergo surgery during the football off-season.


John Fox - Denver Broncos Coach - Heart Surgery PatientJohn Fox, Denver Broncos Head Coach, Heart Valve Surgery Patient


However, on Saturday, Fox began experiencing symptoms while playing golf with his friends. Shortly thereafter, Fox was brought to a hospital, where an ultrasound revealed he needed aortic valve surgery as soon as possible. (So you know, the early news reports that Coach Fox had a heart attack were incorrect.)

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Caregiving After Heart Surgery: 5 Tips for a Speedy, Healthy Recovery

By Adam Pick on October 30, 2013

Going in for surgery is not easy, but it can be equally challenging on the caregiver as on the patient. Post-op care requires patience, compassion and a bit of basic medical knowledge to smooth your loved one’s journey after heart surgery.


Caregiving After Heart SurgeryDeb Ziegler, Mitral & Tricuspid Valve Patient, with Josie & Jim


1. Figure Out the Patient’s Preferences BEFORE Surgery

As with many aspects of a relationship, communication about surgery expectations is key. Don’t wait until your loved one is recuperating on a couch to find out what he or she needs. Instead, have a detailed discussion in the days or weeks leading to the surgery. Does the patient want visitors after arriving home? What types of foods make him feel best when she’s sick? Do books, movies or video games relax him? Discuss these aspects of post-surgical care before the operation to ensure you’re both on the same page.

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Patient Success Story: After TAVR Procedure, John Gerlits Is Out Of The Hospital In Two Days!

By Adam Pick on October 25, 2013

Recently, I met John Gerlits, a patient diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis four years ago. As John had a history of heart disease, he qualified for the new transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure. If you didn’t know, TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure in which the aortic valve is replaced without an incision to the patient’s sternum or ribs.



To help patients in our community learn more about John, I created this educational video. In the video, you will also hear from John’s physicians — Dr. Chris Malaisrie, cardiac surgeon, and Dr. James Flaherty, interventional cardiologist — about the use of TAVR for inoperable and high risk patients. For the hearing impaired members of our community, I have provided a written transcript of this video below.

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Free eBook & Video: “Advantages of the Ross Procedure” Webinar

By Adam Pick on October 17, 2013

Great news!

Our recent webinar, “Advantages of the Ross Procedure”, went really well. Over 140 patients and caregivers registered to learn critical insights about aortic valve disease and treatment from Dr. Paul Stelzer, a leading cardiac surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. In particular, the webinar focused on the advantages of the Ross Procedure for patients with valve defects including aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation.


Ross Procedure eBook


If you were unable to attend the webinar, no worries. I created two ways you can access the information shared during this hour-long event with Dr. Stelzer. You can either:

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Technology Update: The Two-Part Vitality Heart Valve Replacement Explained by Ivan Vesely, Founder of ValveXchange

By Adam Pick on October 15, 2013

New heart valve companies don’t pop up often. The last time there was an innovation rush in this field was about 10 years ago, when several transcatheter heart valve companies were launched to develop valves delivered to the patient’s heart via catheter.  Since that time, the Edwards SAPIEN class of products got FDA approval in the United States, and a whole bunch more are being sold in Europe.

As we have previously discussed, TAVR procedures (also known as TAVI) is really great for patients that are high risk or inoperable. But… What about new valve replacement technologies for patients that are not sick enough for transcatheter valves? Well, there really hasn’t been a start-up company — with a unique approach to valve replacement therapy — in years. Then came… ValveXchange.


Ivan Vesely, Founder ValveXchangeIvan Vesely, Founder of ValveXchange


Originally started by noted heart valve scientist, Ivan Vesely, and having roots in the internationally renowned Cleveland Clinic, ValveXchange is a development-stage, Colorado-based company that is making waves with it’s two-part valve platform.

To learn more about ValveXchange and its potential implications for our patient community, I interviewed Ivan Vesely, its founder.

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TAVR Specialist, Columbia Heart Valve Center, Launches Microsite!

By Adam Pick on October 13, 2013

I am very happy to announce that the Columbia Heart Valve Center just launched a Heart Valve Clinic Microsite at Needless to say, we are thrilled to be working with Columbia’s incredible team which includes Dr. Craig Smith, Dr. Martin Leon, Dr. Mathew Williams and Dr. Susheel Kodali.

So you know, the Columbia Heart Valve Center, which is located in New York City, is one of the leading transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) clinics in the United States. Thus far, the Columbia Heart Valve Center has implanted over 900 TAVRs for aortic stenosis patients who are inoperable or at high risk. To learn more about the Columbia Heart Valve Center, please click here.


Columbia Heart Valve Center Microsite


On behalf of our patient and caregiver community, I would like to thank all of the members of the Columbia Heart Valve Center — with a special thanks to Dr. Williams, Dr. Kodali, Lisa Hathaway, Patricia Knipper, Diane Amato and Deborah Schwarz.

Keep on tickin!

Join 100 Patients for The Ross Procedure Webinar!

By Adam Pick on October 1, 2013

Great news everybody!

I just learned that over 100 patients have registered for the Ross Procedure Webinar with Dr. Stelzer this Thursday, October 3, at 1pm EST.

That said, we just extended the webinar registration. So, if you would like to participate in this special community event about the Ross Procedure, simply click the link below. There is no cost to join the webinar. All you need is a computer.


Click here to register for the Ross Procedure Webinar on October 3!


Please let me know if you have any questions!

Keep on tickin!

“Can a Physically Demanding Job Cause an Early Onset of Heart Valve Disease?” Asks Jerry

By Adam Pick on October 1, 2013

I just received an interesting question from Jerry. In his email, Jerry writes, “Adam, I’m 53 and a recent mitral valve repair and aortic valve replacement patient. My question is… Can a physically demanding profession – like wildland firefighting — contribute to, cause an early onset, or accelerate the development of valve disease in a previously healthy person?”


Wildland Firefighter


To help Jerry better understand the progression of valvular disease, I contacted Dr. Luis Castro from the Sequoia Hospital Heart & Vascular Institute in Redwood City, California. Doctor Castro offered several interesting thoughts for Jerry that I decided to share with our community. Here is Dr. Castro’s response:

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Inside the Operating Room with Dr. Clifton Lewis for a Robotic Mitral Valve Repair & More

By Adam Pick on September 30, 2013

I just experienced something extraordinary.

After putting on scrubs, a cap and a surgical mask, I went inside a cardiac operating room to observe a robotic mitral valve repair surgery. This high-tech procedure was performed by Dr. Clifton Lewis at Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. If you didn’t know, Dr. Lewis is a minimally invasive specialist that has performed over 8,500 cardiac procedures of which more than 3,500 involved valve repairs or valve replacements.

Needless to say, this experience was… very interesting. On one hand, the patient (who suffered from severe mitral regurgitation due to mitral valve prolapse) did incredibly well. The post-operative echo showed no mitral valve leakage following the procedure. On the other hand, I witnessed first-hand how the million dollar robot enabled Dr. Lewis to reconstruct a mitral valve using an annuloplasty ring and a synthetic chordae — from a remote control panel that was 5 feet away from the operating table.

To share this experience with you, I created this video.



“The robot is really just another surgical instrument,” Dr. Lewis shared with me, “It is under the control of myself and Richard, my physician assistant, who is positioned next to the operating table.”  Thus far, Doctor Lewis has performed over 700 robotic mitral valve procedures. He has also used the robot for tricuspid valve repair procedures as well.

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Special Announcement: Register Now for the Ross Procedure Webinar Hosted by Dr. Paul Stelzer on October 3

By Adam Pick on September 22, 2013

I am very excited to announce that Dr. Paul Stelzer and I will host a live webinar titled, “The Advantages of the Ross Procedure”, on Thursday, October 3 at 1pm EST. As many of you know, Dr. Stelzer has used the Ross Procedure to treat many patients in our community — including Jeff Shebovsky, Chris Dixon, Mark Kroto, Peter Woglom — that were diagnosed with aortic valve disease.


Click here to register for the Ross Procedure Webinar on October 3!


During this live webinar for patients, their families and friends, Dr. Stelzer is going to discuss aortic valve disease and the different treatment options including the Ross Procedure. Key questions that Dr. Stelzer will address are:

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Surgeon Q&A: “What Determines the Transfemoral or Transapical Approach for TAVR?” Asks Denise

By Adam Pick on September 18, 2013

Given the recent FDA approval of transcateher aortic valve replacement devices (TAVR), I continue to receive interesting questions from our patient community. For example, Denise recently wrote to me, “Hi Adam – My mom is 84 years old and diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis. We’re researching the possibility of using the catheter valve to help her. I’ve read that the valve can be inserted through the groin or through the heart. What determines the way in which this valve is implanted? Is one better than the other? Thanks, Denise.”



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Surgeon Spotlight: Dr. S. Chris Malaisrie Advances Valve Therapy With Minimally Invasive Techniques

By Adam Pick on September 4, 2013

I am thrilled to shine our “Surgeon Spotlight” on Dr. S. Chris Malaisrie. Over the years, Dr. Malaisrie’s support of our community has been fantastic. In addition to hosting live educational webinars, Dr. Malaisrie has also filmed several videos to empower our patients through the surgical process. If you are unfamiliar with this incredibly talented and nice surgeon — who has successfully treated many patients in our community including Janis Kielbasa, Fran Bernstein, and Jeff Petto — I encourage you to continue reading this post.


Dr. Malaisrie’s approach to heart surgery

As a heart surgeon at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, S. Chris Malaisrie, MD, is accustomed to performing surgery in the operating room every day. But he never forgets there is something new to learn with each operation.

“Heart surgery is a truly enjoyable experience,” says Malaisrie. “To put someone’s circulation on a machine—to maintain their circulation in an artificial circuit, and stop the heart to operate on its internal structures—is an incredible technical feat, and an enormous responsibility.”


Dr. S. Chris Malaisrie – Heart Surgeon


As associate director for Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute’s Center for Heart Valve Disease and co-director of its Thoracic Aortic Surgery Program, Malaisrie maintains an intense focus on heart valve research and elevating industry best practices. He believes that valve repair will become a more standard operation than heart valve replacement in the coming years, and that the use of transcatheter heart valves for higher-risk patients will also increase dramatically.

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6 Tips To Prepare You For Heart Surgery Recovery

By Adam Pick on September 3, 2013

After heart surgery, you’ll likely go home with a list of dos and don’ts from your physician. Preparing for surgery beforehand will also help the recovery process go more smoothly and comfortably.


Patient Recovering From Heart SurgeryCindy Wilson, Heart Valve Patient, Begins Her Recovery


More than 85,000 aortic valve replacements are performed on average in the United States each year, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It’s a life changer, and prepping for the recovery process minimizes risks of short-term and long-term complications.

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“Have The Guidelines For Replacing Aortic Aneurysms Changed For Patients With Bicuspid Aortic Valves?” Asks Barbara

By Adam Pick on September 3, 2013

I just received a great question from Barbara about aortic aneurysms, bicuspid aortic valves and the guidelines used by physicians to determine treatment. In her email, Barbara wrote to me, “Hi Adam – I have a bicuspid aortic valve with stenosis. I also have an aneurysm (4.1 cm) that we have been tracking for a number of years. I have heard that the guidelines for treatment just changed from 5cm to 4.5cm. Is that true? If so, why did the guidelines change? Is this change causing more patients, like me, to get treatment earlier? Thanks, Barbara”


Aortic Aneursym GuidelinesDiagram Showing An Aortic Aneurysm


Barabara raises a great question considering so many patients in our community experience valvular disorders and aortic aneurysms simultaneously.

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After Traveling from Louisville to Los Angeles… After A Valve Sparing Procedure by Dr. Starnes… Nathan and I Connect

By Adam Pick on August 23, 2013

Several weeks ago, I was fortunate to meet Nathan Higginbotham — a patient from Louisville, Kentucky who was diagnosed with aortic stenosis and an aortic aneurysm. During our phone call, I quickly sensed that Nathan had done his homework. He was asking all the right questions about his upcoming procedure.


nathan-higginbotham-dr-starnes-patientNathan and Me (Room 568 at USC Medical Center)


When I asked Nathan about his surgeon, he said something like, “I think you know the guy. His name is Dr. Vaughn Starnes.”

I immediately smiled from ear-to-ear.

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Surgeon Q&A: Taking Asymmetric Information Out of the Surgical Process with Dr. John Byrne

By Adam Pick on August 22, 2013

It is very common for patients to be confused when a doctor says to you, “I am sorry. The valve is in bad shape. I think it is time for surgery.”

In that moment… It is likely the doctor is pointing at an ultrasound you can not interpret. In that moment… You may be processing new words, like stenosis, that you have never heard before. In that moment… You may not know the difference between a valve repair or a valve replacement. You may not know the difference between an annuloplasty ring or a pig valve.


 Dr. John Byrne, Heart Surgeon
Dr. John Byrne


I was recently talking about this moment with Dr. John Byrne, the chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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New Research: Pets May Boost Heart Health

By Adam Pick on August 15, 2013

If you are a pet owner, you are well aware of the joy that pets bring to your daily life. Pet owners may also receive another added benefit: longevity, according to a recent study by the American Heart Association (AHA).


Pets & Heart Health


In the May 9 issue of the American Heart Association’s online medical journal, Circulation, the AHA details study findings that pets also offer their owners heart health benefits. Considering that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States, as noted by the AHA, this is a potentially lifesaving discovery for some.

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