1/8/2013 4:29 PM
There I was rolling through life, a healthy, athletic, non-smoking, 46-year-old male. I had never been to the hospital for anything more than a broken finger. Then, last July I had some discomfort in my chest for a couple days. Heartburn was my diagnosis. Reluctantly, and by the persistence of my girlfriend I went to the emergency room. My EKG showed normal sinus rhythm. Not a heart attack, good news! I was diagnosed with pericarditis (a virus of the connective tissue around the heart).
However, they did a CAT scan of my chest, which showed some disturbing pulmonary effusions and my lungs looked like I had smoked for years? Did I mention I have never smoked! I was kept overnight to get an echocardiogram the next day. The echo revealed a large Atrial Septal Defect (over 20 mm). Turns out I have been shunting red blood from the right blue blood left side for 46+ years. Who knew! I exercised, ate healthy, played sports growing up and as an adult. I had routine physicals and even had flight physicals when I was flying in the Air Force. I had no physical effects of the ASD and according to the cardiologist I was lucky to have never had a stroke. They were amazed that I was so asymptomatic! It was very hard to detect through a stethoscope.
The options seemed scary to me, device closure through cath as long as the hole was not too large, or open heart/bypass to sew in a piece of tissue. But the kicker was, the warning that if the pressures in my heart were too great then heart transplant could be the only option! Did I mention I had never been to the hospital or even had an IV before this!
So the next day I had a TEE (trans-esophageal echocardiogram) and dual catheters. I learned about Versed (love it). The cardiologist asked, if I wanted the good news or the bad news first. “Good news you have the veins and arteries of a 12 year old, no plaque and very clean” and the best news was that the pressure in my heart was normal even for having such a large hole. Bad news, I had a huge hole in my septum and the right side of my heart was severely enlarged. So after weighing my options over a couple weeks I elected to go see Dr. Lim at UVA. He closed my ASD with a device inserted through a catheter procedure. I had a 30 mm (yes 1 3/16”) hole.
My procedure went flawless- in and out in less than an hour. My ASD was closed with a 30mm Amplatzer Occluder. Within a month the right side of my heart went from severely enlarged to mildly enlarged. I feel great and am back to running and exercising normally. Thanks ACHA for the information I gathered from your site, it’s a great resource for adults with congenital heart defects.