State’s first surgery of its kind warms patient’s heart

by Kelly Wittman

David Olene of Big Lake, Minn., enjoyed a walk in the sun Thursday. Something that most people take for granted was given a special meaning considering that just a little more than a month ago Olene was debilitated by heart disease.
Olene, whose heart was weakened and enlarged by dilated cardiomyopathy, became the first person in Minnesota to undergo cardiac ventricular remodeling surgery Jan. 10. He returned Thursday to University-Fairview Medical Center for his first checkup.
The man who performed the surgery, Dr. R. Morton “Chip” Bolman III, said because of Olene’s success, he is “cautiously optimistic” that the procedure will replace heart transplants as the treatment for degenerative heart disease.
The procedure, invented by Brazilian surgeon Dr. Randas Viela Batista, involves cutting away a portion of the left ventricle, thereby giving the heart more power.
The procedure is new to the United States and has been offered only since August, Bolman said. Fewer than 80 heart remodelings have been performed in this country. Olene said he was a willing guinea pig for the procedure.
“Somebody had to try it first to see if it works,” Olene said.
He also said that since the surgery he has been breathing easier and feels as if he’s gaining ground every day. Even his friends have noticed a difference. “They tell me I don’t sound winded on the phone anymore,” he said. Olene said he has experienced no negative side effects from the procedure.
Olene said he is anxious to resume a normal life, since he has been unable to work or do much else for the past few years.
Bolman said doctors will be watching Olene carefully in the next few months to see if the symptoms of his disease return. Should the results of Olene’s surgery remain positive, doctors hope the surgery will become a substitute for a heart transplant.
Bolman said patients do well after heart remodeling if they continue to follow a proper diet and exercise regimen. Olene will have to continue to eat a low-salt diet, get enough exercise, and watch his fluid intake, Bolman said. Many people with heart disease must be careful what they drink and how much, because fluid retention can cause circulation problems.
There is still not enough long-term data to determine if Olene’s improvement is permanent, Bolman said. However, Batista has had patients survive as long as two years with a remodeled heart.
Bolman said that he is ready to try the surgery again as soon as an appropriate candidate for the procedure is found. In order to be eligible for the procedure patients must have a heart enlarged to a certain volume and cannot have had open heart surgery or a heart attack.
The procedure could be used to help as many as 20 to 50 percent of patients on heart donor lists, Bolman said. As many as 80 percent of those waiting for heart donors will go without help because there are not enough organ donors to meet the need for transplants.