WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — One local man is grateful for the quick actions of medical professionals at United Regional for finding two conditions he never knew he had.
As his cardiac surgeon explains, maintenance is key to keeping a heart in perfect rhythm.
Bicuspid aortic valves and aortic aneurysms are both fairly rare. Roy, though, had both.
“The day that it happened, I took a deep breath and I was sitting at the end of the bed and I told myself, I don’t know what it is at all, but it’s like hurting me right here and lack of breath,” Roy said. “So we went to the ER and this is when they found it, my doctor, she sent me to the surgeon immediately.”
That surgeon was Dr. Patrick Roughneen, a URHCS Attending Cardiac Surgeon and Professor of Cardiac Surgery at U.T. McGovern Medical School in Houston. Dr. Roughneen said an Aortic Aneurysm is a condition where the aorta becomes dilated.
He said 5 cm is when they know the risk of rupture exponentially increases.
“You think of it as a blowing up balloon, but with time, the size of the balloon just increases,” Dr. Roughneen said. “Just like a balloon, if you give that final push of pressure into it, when it’s distended enough, it ruptures.”
The other possibility is a tear.
“A tear develops in the wall of the aneurysm and that propagates itself and that can lead to further dilatation.”
If it doesn’t lead to rupture, the aneurysm can cause Malperfusion syndrome which means the blood flow can’t get to the vital organs.
As for bicuspid aortic valves, “Normally the aortic valve it has what we call three cusps and that means there’s three little valves within the big valve itself and those valves protect against blood flowing back into the heart, regurgitates,” Dr. Roughneen said. “With bicuspid valve, there are only two valves, and these two valves with time oftentimes can become incompetent.”
In Roy’s case, the aneurysm needed to be operated on, but his bicuspid valve, which he was born with, did not.
He only realized later that the numbness in his fingers was from these conditions, not normal wear and tear as we all age.
“We noted that the valve although malformed, it was still very functional, it worked well, so there was no need to replace the valve,” Dr. Roughneen said. “However, the aneurysm had reached that critical size of five centimeters and a little bit bigger than that, we knew if we didn’t intervene, even when we controlled his blood pressure, the chances of tearing or rupture were in the order of 10 to 20% per year.”
Aneurysms can be treated two ways, through the leg artery or open surgery, by taking it out and replacing it with synthetic grafts.
“Many people are walking around with these and they do very well long term,” Dr. Roughneen said.
Roy’s surgery in May 2023 was successful, but Dr. Roughneen said surgical intervention is the last resort for both of these conditions.
Bicuspid valves can be managed with medication and aneurysms can stay at a healthy size by managing blood pressure.
“So the best treatment is no treatment, right?” Dr. Roughneen said. “A lot of them we can manage if we have if we catch them early enough to keep the patients away from the operating room or from having any intervention and such just by medically managing them.”
Roy said he was glad he went to the hospital to find out what was causing his pain.
“Listen to the doctors, because they’re not going to lead you in a wrong way,” Roy said. “United Regional is perfect, the hospital, we came in, they treated as good, they got everything done, they got all the tests that needed to be done.”
Dr. Roughneen said now it’s just about maintenance.
“He’s doing very well now and will follow in the clinic, we’ll monitor him, watch him, we’ll keep an eye on the valve.”
Roy is feeling much better after recovering and has some advice for those who notice something off in their own bodies.
“You don’t want to wait until it’s it’s too late and it’s to where it’s going to affect you coming out of it healthy,” Roy said. “You know I’m back to 100%, I’m back to the gym where I was, you need to be able to trust and have faith in what you’re doing and have faith in the doctors.
He also believes his faith helped get him through the procedure and back to his old self again.
“I mean, I don’t think you could do it without of course having God on your side and having God guide the doctors to do the job that they do,” Roy added.
Dr. Roughneen said to avoid smoking, be smart about what you eat, exercise and see about screening if these conditions run in the family at all.