Diagnosis of Massive Aneurysm Came Just in Time
Retired school teacher,
Patricia of Ocean Township, has been a patient of Monmouth Medical Center ear,
nose and throat surgeon John Saporito, MD, for more than 25 years. But
a recent visit turned out to be anything but routine when Dr. Saporito
noticed a small lump in Pat’s neck — an observation that would
prove to be life-saving.
Dr. Saporito noted that Pat was never one to complain, and when she commented
to him that she was having pain in her neck below her ear, his medical
instincts immediately told him something was not right.
“I’ve been a patient of Dr. Saporito’s for years —
he knows me, and he knows I don’t complain," she said. "He
wanted me to have a CT scan of my neck done, and when I hesitated, he
really insisted that I get it done right away."
On his urging, she had the CT scan performed at Monmouth Medical Center
(MMC), a facility of RWJBarnabas Health, and had just returned home when
Dr. Saporito called her to have further radiology studies done.
"Dr. Saporito asked me to return immediately for a CT scan of my chest,"
Pat recalled. Within hours, she was diagnosed with a massive aortic aneurysm
and urgent transport to the Heart Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical
Center was arranged.
Two days later, Craig Saunders, MD, Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery,
performed the complex surgery to repair her aorta and replace her aortic
valve that was damaged by the 3.5 inch aneurysm. “Surgery for an
aneurysm that size was once considered very risky but, in experienced
surgical hands the results can be very good,” said Dr. Saunders.
Dr. Saunders’ team used hypothermic circulatory arrest to perform
the delicate procedure. Pat’s body was cooled to 18°C, the heart
lung machine was turned off and for 18 minutes her metabolism was completely
suspended. “Draining the aorta of blood gives us direct vision into
the vessel in a way that is impossible if the heart lung machine is functioning,”
explained Dr. Saunders. Because Pat’s aortic aneurysm originated
at the top of her heart, the damage extended down to her aortic valve
and was allowing oxygenated blood that had just been pumped out of the
heart to leak back in. After the aneurysm was repaired and her circulation
restored, the next step was to replace her aortic valve.
“Dr. Saunders told me the aneurysm was something I could have lived
with for 25 more years, or it could have ruptured and I could have been
dead within a week,” said Pat.
“The bigger the aneurysm, the more tension on the vessel wall,”
explained Dr. Saunders. “Without treatment, eventually there is
a fatal rupture or leak.”
According to Pat, the care she received throughout her health crisis was
unlike anything she had ever experienced.
“If I had been a member of the doctors’ own families, I could
not have been treated any kinder. They arranged everything,” she
said, adding that the staff on the "sixth floor" — the
Cardiac Step-Down Unit at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center where she
spent 12 days recovering from surgery — was phenomenal.
Today, Pat has fully recovered from her surgery and realizes just how lucky
she was. “I had absolutely no symptoms of a heart problem. I have
the rest of my life planned now – because Dr. Saporito and Dr. Saunders
were able to save my life,” she said