YOUR HEALTH: Ross to the rescue: Giving Stacey’s heart new life

The latest procedure is giving adults with a congenital heart defect an even greater chance at living a long, healthy life.
Published: Oct. 19, 2023 at 7:51 AM CDT
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PLANO, Texas (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Each year, more than 40,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects or CDHs. These infants have problems with the structure and function of their hearts which can include holes in their hearts or valves that don’t work properly. New procedures, technologies, and medications are helping these newborns live longer than ever before. In fact, according to The American Heart Association, there are more adults in the U.S. living with congenital heart defects than children. Now, the latest procedure is giving adults an even greater chance at living a long, healthy life.

Just doing something as simple as walking her dogs, Remy and Josie, is something Stacey Zvokel couldn’t easily do a few years ago. Stacey was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. Her aortic valve had two flaps instead of three, making it difficult for her heart to pump blood into the body.

“I had significant blockage where the blood flow was not coming in, which put me at risk for heart failure,” Zvokel explained.

She needed an aortic valve replacement.

“Stacey fits into the Ross category perfectly ‘cause she’s a young, active female who doesn’t want to be on any coagulation and wants to live a long time,” said Dr. William Brinkman, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Baylor Scott & White with the Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas.

Dr. Brinkman says it’s the only operation that replaces the diseased aortic valve with the patient’s own tissue.

“We are basically taking your pulmonary valve and moving it over to where the aortic valve was. The beauty of the Ross procedure is, the only aortic valve replacement where you have your own living tissue still functioning as a valve,” Dr. Brinkman explained.

Studies show that the Ross procedure has a lower risk of stroke or clots forming, and it has better long-term outcomes compared to conventional aortic valve replacement.

“It’s the only valve replacement with a long-term survival parallels the survival of the average American population, which is remarkable,” added Dr. Brinkman.

Ross saved Stacey’s heart and changed her life.

“I realized, ‘Oh my word, I feel so good.’ I didn’t realize how bad I actually felt until I got better,” Zvokel said.

The ideal patient for the Ross procedure is fit and under 50. The other options for aortic valve replacements are a mechanical valve, which requires a lifetime of blood thinners, or replacing the valve with a cow-based or pig-based valve, but they often tend to wear out in 10 to 15 years.

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