PHOTO: "Sternal Lok Blu" Rigid Sternal Fixation
Today was pretty intense. First I met with my surgeon's right hand man, a nurse-practitioner named Bill. Bill has been very helpful since I first met with him. Today he answered the follow-up questions that I had such as about the total number of incisions I would wake up with post surgery (7 or 8 including three or four drainage tubes, two regular IVs, an arterial IV, and a neck incision for a cardiac catheter!), what medications I would be on, probably at least six including a water pill, something for my bowels, a pain killer, a beta blocker for blood pressure medication, aspirin, and coumadin. I also asked Bill about the relative complexity of my procedure. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being highly complex, my procedure a "Button Bentall" is an 8 or a 9. That's why you go to a major university center like Temple or Penn, a heart center of excellence, to get this type of surgery. Bill also explained the timings that my husband Dan can expect for my procedure. The operation will last between six and eight hours including prep time and post surgery housekeeping before I will be transferred to the ICU. If my procedure starts as scheduled early Monday, Dan can expect to get a report from my surgeon Dr. Wheatley sometime between about 1 PM and 3 PM. Bill also commented on the general anesthesia used. Two different agents are administered. One knocks you out and the other paralyzes you.
After meeting with Bill I met with my surgeon Dr. Wheatley. By this point in the process most of my questions had already been answered. I did disucss the possibility that I might require a permanent pacemaker post surgery. Dr. Wheatley told me that there is only about a 10 percent chance of that. Since I blog about BAV disease and aneurysms and my own situation, I might want to write further about it at some point. In this connection i asked Dr. Wheatley if he planned to take photos of my procedure. He indicated that he did not do this routinely but he would try to make some media available for me.
After meeting with Dr. Wheatley it was time for pre-admission testing. This included an examination by a nurse-practitioner, blood work, and chest X-rays. I got anti-bacterial body wipes that I must use the night before my surgery and also on the morning of the surgery. I also asked if I could see the cardiac intensive care facility and the step down unit, but apparently Temple Hospital does not allow casual visitors to these facilities.
Finally, Dr. Wheatley asked me if I would be interested in participating in an evaluation of an alternative sternal closure device, "Sternal Lok Blu," which are metal plates screwed to the sternum instead of wires. Dr. Wheatley feels that this method is superior to the wires. I agreed but since it is a study only half of the participants will receive the rigid sternal fixation devices and the other half will get the usual closure with wires. I'm hoping to be one of the lucky recipients of the Sternal Lok Blu closures. I won't know until after the study ends, though, in about a year.
So now I have only four days before surgery happens. The train has left the station and I'm on board. There's no getting off now.