A Lifelong Aortic Defect Leads Her to Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute (Video)

“I had open heart surgery at the age of 7,” recalls Carrie Lois, who is now 57 and the mother of two daughters.

So began the medical journey of Ms. Lois, who as a child was diagnosed with a coarctation of the aorta, a birth defect in which a part of the aorta – the body’s largest artery — is narrower than normal. At 7, she had the condition corrected after a 10-hour surgery, but in her 40s, it needed to be looked at again.

“I noticed that I had a lot of pain in my legs and my feet were swollen and I didn’t feel it was normal,” recalled Ms. Lois. “Let me go and find out what the issue is.”

The search for an answer led her to meet with Barry Katzen, M.D., founder and chief medical executive of the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, 12 years ago.

(Watch Now: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Barry Katzen, M.D., founder and chief medical executive of the Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, and patient Carrie Lois, about the journey that led her to the Institute to correct her lifelong heart condition. Video by George Carvalho.)

Dr. Katzen says that as advancements are made at the Institute with minimally invasive procedures, the greater the likelihood of avoiding open-heart surgery, like Ms. Lois had as a child. Even though her childhood open-heart surgery was successful at the time, the treated portion of her aortic artery failed to grow properly over the years.

To correct Ms. Lois’ lifelong problem, Dr. Katzen and his team performed a minimally invasive angioplasty, during which a long, thin tube called a catheter, with a small balloon on its tip, is inserted through the patient’s femoral artery in the thigh. The aim is to open up the affected artery and insert a stent to enable normal blood flow.

“We ultimately did some physiologic evaluations that showed that her coarctation, which had been repaired, had actually been narrowed down a bit which was restricting the blood flow going to her lower legs, “ said Dr. Katzen. “We were able to use a balloon and put a stent in to keep the artery open and get optimal blood flow going down to the rest of the circulation.”

Ms. Lois says she was very happy with the outcome of the procedure.

Increasingly, adults who had the benefits of already advanced open-heart surgery years ago are now “living longer to become wonderful, healthy and active adults like Carrie (Ms. Lois),” says Dr. Katzen. These cases have created a new subset of patients — referred to as “adult congenital heart” — that is being treated more frequently at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.

“We know that sometimes problems occur as a result of those congenital heart operations that were done when they were children, and we’re looking more and more at solutions to avoid having to repeat open-heart surgery,” Dr. Katzen explains. “This is an area we call ‘adult congenital heart’ and Carrie’s problem fell into that category of diseases that we treat.”

Ms. Lois says she was very pleased with the quality of care that she received from everyone at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “I must tell you that after my procedure with Dr. Katzen, I felt like a different person immediately.”

“When you walk through the door, everybody’s very kind,” said Ms. Lois. “I even notice when I’m waiting outside to see him, all the patients that are there for their appointments are very energetic [and] very positive because they know they have been treated … with the best and that’s how I feel every time I walk through those doors.”

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