A Virgin Islander received a new heart valve during open heart surgery at the V.I. Cardiac Center at Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital this week, the first operation of its kind in the territory, hospital officials said.
This is at least the sixth open heart operation at Juan Luis since a team led by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Moses DeGraft-Johnson performed the territory’s first in January.
The patient in this case had a scarred heart valve that would not close properly. This condition creates a backflow of blood into the heart. The patient’s scarred valve was replaced with the Mosaic® Bioprosthesis artificial valve, which is constructed from the heart of a pig. A pig’s heart anatomy is similar to that of a human heart.
This complex surgery was performed on a 44 year old patient suffering from a heart rhythm disease and a rare valvular heart condition called Barlow’s Syndrome or Click Murmur Syndrome. About five to 10 percent of people in the world are affected by Barlow’s Syndrome, which causes scarring of the heart valve. The tissues become thick and enlarged and flop back into the
left side of the heart which causes the blood to flow backwards.
The heart rhythm disease is known as the “silent killer” because it often goes unnoticed. The two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood is not pumped completely out of these chambers, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results.
Roughly two million Americans have the disorder.
The transplant is really groundbreaking work for the V.I. Cardiac Center at Juan Luis and, according to hospital officials, Juan Luis is now the regional referral center for advanced minimal and invasive cardiovascular care. The surgery was successful and the patient is doing very well, is now free of symptoms, and has regained a good quality of life, according to the hospital.
Performing these types of operations within the territory benefits residents of the territory by saving the cost and difficulty of long-distance travel and by saving lives. And the money-generating potential of these sorts of operations was a topic of conversation at the hospital’s most recent meeting of its governing board. Complex procedures like this are very expensive and generally paid for by private insurance or Medicare, and can be major money makers for the hospital at a time when finances are more than a little tight.
“I am very excited about what this could mean for patients in the Virgin Islands and the rest of the Caribbean," said DeGraft-Johnson in a statement from the hospital. "We can alleviate the financial and emotional burden of traveling off island to Puerto Rico or stateside to seek medical attention.”