Many heart patients waiting on donor lists might soon have a new option: a new surgery that reduces the size of their own heart.
Two University doctors performed a revolutionary new surgery Friday at the Fairview-University Medical Center. The surgery, called cardiac ventricular remodeling, was the first ever performed in Minnesota. This surgery is used to correct dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that results in an unusually large heart.
Dr. R. Morton Bolman III, chief of cardiothoracic surgery, and cardiologist Dr. Alan Bank held a press conference Monday to discuss the new procedure with the press.
“The results have been quite astonishing,” said Bolman, who performed the surgery along with Dr. Soon Park. “This is new territory.”
The procedure involves removing damaged tissue in the left ventricle, thus reducing the size of the heart. The surgery relieves stress and helps the heart pump more efficiently. Removing this portion of the heart gives the rest of the heart more power, which allows more oxygen and blood to flow into the body.
This procedure has been used in Brazil for several years, but is new to the United States, Bolman said. The surgery was invented by Dr. Randas Viela Batista, and has been studied by several cardiologists at leading hospitals over the past year.
Between 60 and 80 of these surgeries have been performed in the United States since this past summer, Bank said.
Bolman said this procedure goes against everything he had ever been taught about the heart.
“We’ve always been told it is too dangerous to touch the heart,” Bolman said. Teaching methods will change in the future if this procedure proves successful, he said.
The patient who received the surgery Friday is 52-year-old David Olene of Big Lake, Minnesota. Doctors removed a large part of Olene’s heart and repaired a leaking valve, Bolman said.
“About 75 to 100 grams of tissue is removed,” Bolman said. This amounts to 25 to 30 percent of the left ventricle.
Bank said Olene was still in intensive care, but is off life support and has been awake and out of bed.
This surgery is a new alternative for patients with congestive heart failure who may need heart transplant surgery, Bank said. Patients often wait two years before receiving a heart that fits their body type. About 30,000 people might benefit from a heart transplant every year, but only 2,300 receive them because of the donor shortage. This surgery may eliminate the need for a transplant for thousands of people, Bank said.
“Probably 25 to 50 percent (of people) on our heart transplant list … have a valve problem that will make them a candidate for this surgery,” Bank said.
The remodeling surgery is also less expensive than heart replacement surgeries, Bank said. Heart replacement surgery, including the time spent waiting for a heart, could be four or five times more expensive.
Stephanie Olene, David’s wife, said she was relieved that the surgery was over. “We saw this surgery on ’20/20.’ He mentioned it to Dr. Banks that he would volunteer.”
Olene said her husband is improving. “He is doing better than (the doctors) thought. He’s had a really good attitude.”