Aortic Valve Replacement - July 2018
I just wanted to write a short report for others about to undergo aortic valve replacment in case it provides them with some support.
I had a bicuspid aortic valve that had development severe stenosis. My valvle has been monitored for many years and I knew that the day would come when the valve would have to be replaced.
My cardioligist explained the symptoms to look out for and, right on schedule, the symptoms appeared shortly after I turned 56 (shortness of breath, difficulty with physical activity). My cardiolgist set me up with a cardiac surgeon at UC San Francisco (Dr Deusy) and surgery was scheduled for a few months later.
Dr Deusy recommended the relatively new Edwards Inspirus Resilia Valve. He explained there were no long term studies, but it looked very promising in terms of longevity (and not requiring long term blood thinners). I went with his advice.
I was in the hospital (UC San Francisco) for 4 days. I kind of wish I had stayed for one more day, but I was anxious to be out of the hospital and everyone around me was a lot sicker so it made sense to go home.
I have to admit the recovery was "challenging". The challenges had nothing to do with the new valve or the surgery. They involved the healing of the pericardium. I unfortunately developed acute pericarditis (an auto-immune response to the healing of the sack that surrounds the heart). It proved difficult to diagnose, but once they figured out what it was, the fix was pretty easy and quick. If the pericarditis hadn't have happened, I think I would have said my recovery was easy. Be warned though - the healing of the sternum is no fun as every cough is a new lesson in pain until it heals and this takes a few months. Make sure you carry a pillow around at all times and compress it over your sternum when you cough - the harder you push, the less the pain.
Dr Deusy used a minimally invasive procedure so I have a 3.5 inch scar on my chest that is barely noticeable after 9 months. I have looked at other people who didn't have such a talented surgeon and I feel incredibly lucky.
I am now riding my bike "with gusto" on 25 mile rides and I feel like I did 10 years ago. Note, I was in good shape before the surgery, so I think this helped a lot. I would strongly recommened being in the best shape you can be before you undergo heart surgery.
I received incredible care from my surgeon (Dr Deusy) and my cardiolgist (Dr Qasim). Both are professors at UC San Francisco and both are very calm, cool, and intelligent physicians. I consider myself very lucky to have had them. I continue to see Dr Qasim periodically for checkups, but so far, so great.