Imagine a place where aortic valves can be replaced through a five-centimetre incision between two ribs rather than breaking breast bones; where a 10-day hospital stay is reduced to no more than four days; where a patient feels less pain and has a lower risk of post-operative infection. That place is Hamilton General Hospital, Ontario’s leader in cardiac surgery. Hamilton General Hospital is one of only three sites in Canada that currently performs mini-aortic valve replacement (mini-AVR) surgery, an innovation with the potential to transform lives.
Aortic stenosis, commonly known as the narrowing of the aortic valve, is one of the most common and most serious heart valve diseases, as it increasingly reduces the flow of blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. Aortic stenosis becomes more common as we age, though younger patients may also experience this life-threatening condition.
Mini-AVR offers hope for some patients who might require valve replacement surgery. It is giving a second life to those patients who meet the strict medical criteria for this innovative surgical procedure.
Patients such as Joe deTuba was exercising at the gym when his heart rate spiked. The next thing he knew he was surrounded by EMS personnel. After being transported to the local hospital, it was determined that Joe had suffered a heart attack. He was in urgent need of an angioplasty and was transported to Hamilton General Hospital. Test results showed that Joe suffered from a congenital bicuspid aortic valve, a condition in which his aortic valve was made of only two leaflets and not the normal three. This condition made him more prone to aortic stenosis, something that was diagnosed while at The General. As a result, Joe was in need of a new aortic valve.
Joe knew that a valve replacement required open-heart surgery, but having watched his daughter at a young age, along with various friends go through the surgery, he was reluctant to experience the pain, scarring and long recovery. After consulting with Dr. Dyub, Joe was fortunate to be a candidate for this innovative procedure, a mini-AVR. Four days after the procedure, Joe was sleeping in his own bed, and a week later he was back to driving. The scar is barely visible and mere centimetres long.
Barry Goldman is another patient who says “I would have died” if it wasn’t for the amazing care at Hamilton General Hospital. Barry also suffered from a congenital bicuspid aortic valve, which he learned about during a pre-operative appointment for an unrelated surgery. At the time, he was told that he needed to be monitored and that open-heart surgery would be required to replace the valve. As a retired pharmacist, Barry was well aware of what his condition meant. When he started to experience shortness of breath and a loss of stamina, he knew it was time to see his cardiologist. Not wanting to experience the long recovery and pain of open-heart surgery, Barry researched what other options might be available. He asked his doctor about mini-AVR. A few days later he was under the care of Dr. Dyub at Hamilton General Hospital.
Barry was fortunate that he met the conditions for mini-AVR and underwent the procedure. He was back to work and some exercise within days of the procedure. Barry is a marvel to his friends who have undergone open-heart surgery. While he says, “a headache would have hurt more,” many of his friends are still experiencing pain from their surgery. “Twenty-five years ago this operation wouldn’t have been possible,” says a grateful Barry. “This procedure is scientifically a much better approach.”
Both Joe and Barry are thrilled with the results and can’t say enough about care they received at Hamilton General Hospital.
This innovative procedure and others like it are possible because of the world-class clinical teams at Hamilton General Hospital, but also because of donors and partners like Mercedes-Benz Burlington who help fund the equipment and research needed to make these innovations a reality – helping to enhance and save more lives every day.