The Not Entirely Complete Works of Peter Schulman

©2013 Peter Schulman

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Avoiding Unnecessary Surgery By Accident

You know this is real because it sounds like it couldn’t possibly be.

In December I was driving to my doctor thinking about a situation which made me very angry. By the time I got there I was pumped with adrenaline. My heart rate was so high my doctor sent me to the cardiologist down the hall.

My cardiologist arranged for an echocardiogram and stress test two days later. I assumed it was all the result of my anger.

The stress test showed nothing unusual, but the echo showed my aortic valve was not opening very well. So appointments were made and I was scheduled to have the valve replaced in April.

A pre-op echo confirmed aortic stenosis - narrowing of the opening of my aortic valve. I talked with the tech running the test and we discussed that it didn’t actually show a picture, but the results had to be interpreted by using integral calculus to translate the Doppler readings taken while the ultrasonic wand is moving. This made sense to me because I had just read a book on the Theory of Relativity (doesn’t everyone?). I have no fear this will make me out to be a nerd because it’s already the consensus opinion of everybody who knows me.

The pre-op heart catheterization found an 80% blockage which would be cleared and managed with a medicated stent.

So I went in the day before surgery was scheduled for a catheterization during which they cleared the blockage and placed the stent. But a funny thing happened on the way to the recovery room, before actually, the catheter accidentally slipped past my aortic valve into my heart. The doctor was quite surprised. That shouldn’t have been possible! Narrowing of the valve opening causes a considerable difference in pressure on the two sides of the valve. That should have made it impossible for the catheter to wander. So they measured the pressure differential and found it was surprisingly low.

I was sent for another echo and it confirmed the findings of the previous two. The three tests were consistent, and wrong. I had a visit from the doctor who placed the stent and one later by the surgeon who was to have performed the valve replacement. They said there was not enough value to be gained by the surgery to counterbalance the risks. I understood that to mean we’ll keep an eye on it to see if it reaches the point where the surgery will be required.

So, the bottom line for me is that I avoided unnecessary major surgery by accident. I have no complaints and nothing but appreciation for the doctors who kept my health the main priority.

The doctors told me many people are let down by having their surgery cancelled. They are all ready to go and then nothing happens.

I said, “I’m good.”