Second Opinion Mattered

Heart Surgery Patient

There was a time when mowing the yard seemed to be "too much" for Roger Elbert.

"My feet would start to drag after the first half-hour of walking behind my mower," he says. "I'd be really pooped, but I figured that's just my age, I guess."

A discussion with his physician, Hamid Amjadi, DO, an internist at Covenant Clinic in Waterloo, resulted in an echocardiogram. The test showed that Elbert had aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve that makes it extremely difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Left untreated, it can lead to congestive heart failure, even sudden death. Surgery was needed to replace the partially blocked valve.

"That scared the liver out of me," Elbert says. "So I went back and talked to Dr. Amjadi, and we decided to get a second opinion."

Amjadi referred Elbert to the UI Heart and Vascular Center, where tests confirmed the diagnosis. Elbert was a good candidate for minimally invasive aortic valve replacement (AVR) surgery.

A traditional AVR procedure requires a full sternotomy, in which a vertical incision is made along the entire length of a patient's sternum to split the breastbone in order to gain access to the heart. Minimally invasive AVR involves an upper hemi-sternotomy, with an incision about six to eight centimeters long, notes Robert Saeid Farivar, MD, the UI cardiothoracic surgeon who performed Elbert's AVR surgery.

Farivar and the surgical team successfully accessed Elbert's aorta, where they replaced his calcified heart valve with a new tissue valve. There are some important benefits to this approach, including reduced trauma from surgery, faster recovery, better mobility, a smaller scar, and minimal pain.

Elbert was back home only three days after his surgery. Moreover, he felt "no pain whatsoever" following the procedure. Soon he was back to his normal activities: push-mowing his half-acre yard, digging in his garden, and "gallivanting" around the neighborhood.