This is the story of three high-risk heart patients with three different cardiac conditions who were operated on the same day by three different surgeons. They were fortunate that their surgeries could be done with minimally invasive procedures instead of the more traumatic open-chest surgery.
“What is particularly special about this day is that in the majority of hospitals, these procedures are not even performed,” Dr. Rosenbloom said. Cooper University Hospital’s minimally invasive heart surgery program is one of only a few such programs offered in the Delaware Valley and the most extensive program of its kind in South Jersey.
“Experience is very important in minimally invasive heart surgery. It requires not only the skill of the surgeon but the expertise of a team of anesthesiologists, nurses, cardiologists and critical care doctors who make our program work so well for our patients,” said Michael Rosenbloom, M.D., Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Cooper and a pioneer in minimally invasive heart surgery since the 1990s.
“Many patients who undergo these same surgeries have their chests cracked open by a sternal (breast bone) splitting approach in order to perform these heart surgeries. On this day at Cooper, none of them had that done.” They all had minimally invasive surgery allowing faster recovery and fewer complications.
“One very large benefit from not dividing the breast bone and making a small incision between the ribs is an easier recovery for patients. In conventional surgery, recovery time involves not only healing from the heart surgery itself but also from the broken sternum, which can inhibit a patient’s respiratory function and mobility. With a minimally invasive procedure, the whole recovery is different,” Dr. Rosenbloom said.
The three Cooper University Hospital patients – John Ainsworth, Rudolph Freda and Michael Landis – all had medically complex cases. Mr. Ainsworth, a cancer survivor who suffered a heart attack one year ago, came to Cooper University Hospital to have robotic surgery: minimally invasive mitral valve repair. The procedure required one tiny incision in the right chest to determine if the pain in his chest was from a worsening heart condition.
“Mr. Ainsworth received radiation during his cancer treatments many years ago. If we had to open his chest to perform this surgery, he would have had a much harder, more complicated recovery. We were able to avoid this by using a minimally invasive approach,” said Richard Highbloom, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon at Cooper.
Only two days after Mr. Ainsworth’s exploratory, robotic surgery, he was preparing to go home. “When Dr. Highbloom told me I would not have to have open heart surgery, I was thrilled,” said Mr. Ainsworth, 40, of Quinton, N.J. “Just one small incisions on my side. You would never know I had heart surgery.”
Just down the hall from Mr. Ainsworth’s operating room, Rudolph Freda, of Franklinville, N.J., who suffered from aortic stenosis, a blocked aortic valve, was having minimally invasive aortic valve replacement surgery performed by Dr. Rosenbloom. Mr. Freda was experiencing shortness of breath and found it difficult to do simple tasks like walking to his car and taking care of his garden. During an examination for an elective procedure on his eyes, Mr. Freda was told he was suffering from a heart condition that was best to get taken care of quickly. “I was nervous. I’m 79 years old and you really don’t want to take any chances.” After conferring with Dr. Rosenbloom, he immediately felt confident that his minimally invasive approach to repair his heart valve was the best option.
“I’ll be back gardening this spring and I can’t wait,” said Mr. Freda.
“I was short of breath all the time and was gaining a ton of weight,” said Michael Landis, of Mullica Hill, N.J., who underwent valve repair surgery. “I’m amazed that immediately after surgery the shortness of breath is gone.”
Congestive heart failure brought Mr. Landis into the operating room of Frank Bowen, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon at Cooper.
“Mr. Landis suffers from multiple sclerosis; so anytime you have a patient with a chronic condition that needs heart surgery, there is a high risk factor when operating. Having the ability to use three small incisions instead of opening his chest gives Mr. Landis the opportunity to recover more quickly and get back to his normal routine,” Dr. Bowen said.
With two sons who just got married, Mr. Landis can now look forward to having grandchildren in his life soon.
“Dr. Bowen is a true medical artist. I’m expecting this surgery to give me very significant improvements in my quality of life,” Mr. Landis said.
“Cultivating a skill set by the nurses, anesthesiologists and surgeons makes all this possible,” said Dr. Rosenbloom. “Without a team approach to care, we wouldn’t be leading the region in these types of complex heart surgeries.”
The Society for Thoracic Surgeons, the largest cardiac surgery society in the United States, has recognized Cooper’s cardiac surgery program among the top 14 percent in the nation. In just one short year, the cardiac surgery program at Cooper University Hospital has gone from excellent to extraordinary, and is receiving national attention for its successes. Cooper recruited Michael Rosenbloom, M.D., from Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, FL, where he was Chief of Cardiac Surgery, to lead the cardiac surgery program at Cooper in early 2007. Dr. Rosenbloom then recruited two additional cardiovascular surgical experts: Dr. Richard Highbloom, from the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and Dr. Frank Bowen, from the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, MA.