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Careful Screening and Leading-Edge Surgery Give Cardiac Patient New Lease on Life

February 2005 — Diagnosed with osteoporosis, Alvaro had an overactive parathyroid gland that was releasing too much calcium into his blood. Left untreated, this condition, called hyperparathyroidism , could lead to kidney damage and further loss of calcium from his bones. Alvaro decided upon surgery to correct this condition. What Alvaro didn't know was that this decision led to a discovery by his doctors that would save his life.

Screening Uncovers Hidden Danger

On the day of surgery, during preoperative screening, Alvaro's doctors at Memorial Regional Hospital discovered an abnormal heart rhythm. Further testing concluded that he had a severe leak in his aortic valve, the tissue that separates the heart from the rest of the body and keeps blood from leaking back into the heart. If left untreated, a leaky aortic valve could result in severe heart failure.

"I was literally prepped and ready for surgery," says Alvaro. "Thank goodness they discovered my heart condition. I had rheumatic fever 25 years ago, and every year I see my cardiologist to check for resulting heart problems. It just so happens that this particular year, I didn't get it checked. If they hadn't found this before my surgery, my life could have ended abruptly."

Alternative Cardiac Surgery

With his parathyroid surgery postponed, Alvaro turned to the doctors at Memorial Regional Hospital Cardiac and Vascular Institute.

Just weeks later, on his 44th birthday, Alvaro underwent minimally invasive valve replacement surgery at Memorial Regional Hospital.

A high-energy person who enjoys his family and his profession, Alvaro wanted to be back on his feet quickly. This type of ly invasive valve replacement surgery offers great advantages over traditional sternotomy. Rather than making a large incision and dividing the breastbone in half to access the aortic valve, this procedure involves a small incision in the upper right side of the chest. The valve is accessed by an incision that goes between the ribs, rather than an opening in the chest cavity. As a result, recovery time is greatly reduced, healing complications are less common and the resulting scar is much less obvious.

A Grateful Patient

Alvaro was able to go home only days following surgery, and he returned to work just 20 days later. "I can't believe how fortunate I am. The care I received is amazing. Not only did the doctors at Memorial discover my potentially disastrous condition, but the doctors were also able to correct it with the least amount of discomfort," says Alvaro. "The team in ICU never left my side. I am eternally grateful to everyone there for saving my life."

If you are concerned about your risk for heart disease and would like a referral to one of our highly qualified physicians, call Memorial Physician Referral Service toll-free at (800) 944-DOCS.