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Rare Heart Procedure Performed At Trinity Health

Date:  August 2nd, 2012

Contact/Phone:  Mary Muhlbradt
(701)857-5116, Fax: (701)857-5683

e-mail:   Mary Muhlbradt

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Cardiac Surgeon First in North Dakota to Utilize Unique Technique

A pretty good bowler already, Gary Lord says he'd like to work on his game further.  Now he'll have the chance thanks to a rare heart procedure performed at Trinity Health by Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgeon Christopher Phillips, FCCP, FACC, FACS.

Called the Florida Sleeve, the procedure lets a surgeon like Dr. Phillips preserve a patient's natural heart tissue while correcting some of the multiple issues that can arise in patients with an enlarged aorta due to a congenital heart murmur. 

Congenital heart murmur is a condition in which the aortic valve leaks, causing the heart to work harder.  While some patients can go for years without realizing they have a heart murmur, eventually it can lead to an enlarged aorta and aneurysm (fissure) in the aortic wall, which can result in a life-threatening rupture.  "If I hadn't gotten treatment I would have been in big trouble," Lord said.  "Dr. Phillips is a good healer."

"Gary was diagnosed with a leaking damaged aortic valve as well as a dilated enlarged root and ascending aneurysm," Dr. Phillips explained.  "With the Florida Sleeve we were able to spare the native aortic valve while still eliminating the ascending aortic aneurysm and dilated root.  This new procedure vastly simplifies the surgical challenges of reconstructing the root and ascending aneurysm as well as the valve that is affected by annular dilation."

Traditionally, patients have had to undergo many hours of surgery for such a repair, involving artificial components and a difficult reconstruction of the damaged aorta.  With the Florida Sleeve, a surgeon can slide a Dacron casing over the natural aortic root and carefully attach it to the value structures, preserving the aortic root and stopping the leakage. 
In Gary's case, Dr. Phillips says he actually used a modified version of the sleeve technique to make an otherwise arduous and difficult surgery vastly more simplified. 

"This technique allowed us to reconstruct the root and ascending aneurysm, as well as replace the damaged valve, which could not be salvaged in half the time and risk of the older technique," he explained.  "For patients who still have relatively normal valves, reconstruction of the aortic root and annulus can result in a preserved and competent native aortic valve while still removing the supra-coronary aneurysm." 

Dr. Phillips added, "Maintaining the native tissue prolongs the patient survival, based on the fact that the native tissue is ultimately better for the heart physiology.  Moreover, if the valve can be salvaged, there is no need for anticoagulation in younger patients."

The board certified surgeon says this is the first time the Florida Sleeve procedure has been performed in North Dakota.  "Small centers rarely take on these kinds of surgeries," he noted.  "By providing procedures like these, the people of central North Dakota are spared having to travel to major university centers to receive state-of-the-art cardiac care.  They can look no further than their own local hospital - Trinity."

Dr. Phillips has spent his career applying innovative solutions to heart and lung problems.  Prior to joining Trinity Health he practiced at the Cleveland Clinic, home of America's #1 ranked heart program.  Recently he earned recognition for developing a unique approach to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. SPACE index.php