Hole in the Heart

February 14th, 2013

For more than a year, patients requiring some very specialized treatment to close potentially dangerous holes in the heart have been able to receive that treatment in Southern Illinois with little travel, minimal disruption of their lives and great outcomes.

Doctors with Prairie Cardiovascular Consultants, using the catheterization laboratory at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, are repairing patent foramen ovales and atrial septal defects—the two conditions commonly known as a hole in the heart—with a procedure known as a percutaneous, or under the skin, closure. The process, in which surgeons insert a sheath into a vein in the patient’s groin to place the repair device in the heart, takes about 30 minutes. The device plugs the hole and lets patients return to their normal routine in about a day, minus most of the problems originally caused by the defect.

Interventional Cardiologist Prasanna Kumar, M.D.

More about Prasanna Kumar, M.D.

Getting Back to Normal–Fast

Unlike traditional open-heart surgery, recovery time for placement of the “patch” is minimal.

“Patients can get up after a few hours of bed rest and they’re back to their normal routine the next day,” Interventional Cardiologist Prasanna Kumar of Prairie Cardiovascular in Carbondale explains. “It is a very, very quick recovery time.”

A Condition that Often Goes Unnoticed

Kumar says that holes in the heart are very common—as many as one in four people have them—but the condition often goes unnoticed.

“If it doesn’t bother anyone, we don’t do anything, and often we don’t look for it unless a patient is having trouble,” Kumar explains. However, after patients complain of persistent migraine headaches or if they suffer otherwise unexplained strokes, cardiologists and neurologists often suspect the condition. “Especially when young people have strokes—what we call cryptogenic strokes—that don’t have a clear explanation as to what caused them, we begin to look for these sorts of causes,” Kumar says.

Advanced Heart Care Close to Home

While blood thinners and other medicines can be used to treat the condition, he says studies show the best option is to close the hole, something that can be successfully accomplished quickly and close to home.

“People no longer have to travel far for this kind of advanced care,” he says. “They can have great outcomes right here,” Kumar says.