November 23, 2009

The ever-evolving heart valve

By Kelley Luckstein

After her husband passed away in May following years with Alzheimer's disease, the 84-year-old Burnsville resident saw her own health steadily decline due to a failing heart valve.


On Christmas Eve, Schuenke was so fatigued and short of breath that she wound up at the hospital, where doctors offered a grim prognosis: Without a risky open-heart surgery, she would have just a few weeks to live…


A doctor visiting from the Mayo Clinic happened to be working at the hospital the next day and mentioned that the Rochester hospital was part of a study that gave patients the chance at a replacement heart valve without major surgery. Schuenke underwent the procedure in January and was home feeling better in two weeks…


"There's no medication that will fix it — the only definitive treatment we've had is an open-heart procedure for valve replacement," said Dr. Charanjit Rihal, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic. "On the other hand, elderly patients with multiple medical problems may not be able to safely undergo surgical valve replacement."


Pioneer Press by Christopher Snowbeck, 11/20/09

Tags: Cardiology, heart valve, open-heart surgery

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