Woman Has Hole in Heart Repaired

September 26, 2011

Connie Anderson with her granddaughter

Lilly Grace.

After heart surgery, Connie Anderson is back at home but she’s not exactly resting.

“I feel better than I have in years,” said Anderson, who is back to her normal routine with a feeling of rejuvenation. “I feel different. I don’t have the pressure in my chest like I did before.”

Anderson, of Baton Rouge, La., was visiting family in Washington in August when she began to feel chest and head pain and other symptoms. “We were at the Magic House (in Kirkwood) with the kids and she sat the whole time we were there,” said Patty Bleckman, Anderson’s daughter. “On the way home I noticed the side of her face had drooped.” 

The family returned home to Washington and then Bleckman took her mother to the emergency department at Mercy Hospital Washington. Clinicians there ran multiple tests and it was determined that Anderson had had a small stroke, her second in less than a year. In addition, Mercy cardiologist Dr. Joseph Polizzi discovered a patent foramen ovale (PFO), or flap-like opening in her heart.

At birth, everyone has a hole in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart called the foramen ovale. After birth, this hole normally closes. In about 25 percent of people, it remains open (called a patent foramen ovale).  Most people never have a problem but in some patients, PFO has been associated with strokes and possibly migraine headaches.

A PFO allows blood to flow directly from the right atrium to the left atrium, bypassing the filtering system of the lungs, which normally catches tiny blood clots. If small clots are present in the blood, they can pass through the heart and lodge in the brain, causing a stroke. In this case, closure of the PFO is sometimes recommended.

PFOs are usually diagnosed when patients are being tested for other heart conditions. After Dr. Polizzi discovered Anderson’s condition, Dr. Joseph Moore, Mercy’s interventional cardiologist, spoke with Anderson and her daughter about closing the PFO.  “Dr. Moore went over the pros and cons of repairing the hole,” Bleckman said. “He showed me a video and it made a lot of sense. We were very confident of our doctors and nurses and of course we did our own research before we made a decision.”

Dr. Moore closed Anderson’s PFO using a devise that is inserted using pencil-sized catheter. The device is specially designed to cover both sides of the defect. Although it was the first time the procedure was performed in Franklin County region, Dr. Moore has been doing it since 2006. In just the past 2 years, he has inserted more than 90. 

Anderson said afterward, “The pressure in my chest had been bothering me a long time. Now I feel wonderful. Dr. Moore is wonderful. He’s a 10 in my book.”

Bleckman noticed an immediate difference in her mother. She said, “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they look. The color on her face came back. You could tell she just felt better.”

Dr. Moore is offering other services that are new to the region. They include Rotational atherectomy, the removal of calcifications in the coronary arteries by using a high-speed burr, and Intraaortic Balloon Pump support, which is used to decrease the workload on the heart in patients with shock.

Mercy Hospital Washington is an Accredited Chest Pain Center with a chest pain observation program, and a 24-hour on-call cath lab. If you or someone you know is having a heart attack or stroke, call 911.

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