Principal Christine Bradley, of Montgomeryville, PA, was feeling fine – working in a profession she loved at Erdenheim Elementary School, enjoying daily walks and looking forward to retirement.
During a routine check-up, her primary care physician picked up a heart murmur, an unusual sound heard during a heartbeat, and sent her for an echocardiogram. "He called me that night with the results and said I needed to follow up with a cardiologist," says Christine.
Always a researcher, Christine investigated the region's cardiac programs before choosing where to go for care. Positive stories and recommendations for Doylestown Health's Richard A. Reif Heart Institute and physicians came up again and again. She took to the Internet to learn more, and selected cardiologist Michael Mooradd, MD.
A Diagnosis of Aortic Stenosis
"Dr. Mooradd said a calcium build-up was narrowing my aortic valve. It was not opening well, a condition called aortic stenosis," says Christine. The largest artery, the aorta, is the gateway through which the heart pumps oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. A stenotic aortic valve does not permit normal blood flow, and forces the heart to work harder. Dr. Mooradd connected Christine with Joseph S. Auteri, MD, chief of Cardiac Surgery, to discuss treatment options.
"Stenosis can be mild, moderate, severe or critical," says Dr. Auteri. Christine's blockage was at the critical level, and she needed valve replacement surgery to avoid further heart damage so she could resume a normal, healthy lifestyle.
Signs of Aortic Stenosis
- Sensation of a fast or fluttering heart beat
- Chest pain, pressure, tightness (including pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach)
- Loss of consciousness, feeling faint or lightheaded
- Heart murmur
- Swollen legs, ankles
- Fatigue and shortness of breath (especially when active/exercising, lying down, or at night)
If you experience cardiac symptoms, call 911 immediately.
The Valve Replacement
Dr. Auteri removed the calcification and replaced Christine's damaged valve with a tissue valve. Heart valve replacements can be mechanical or tissue. Common factors in valve selection are age, ability to take blood thinners and patient preference.
- Tissue (cow or pig) valves last 12 – 15 years. No blood thinners are required.
- Mechanical valves last forever. Patients must take blood thinners.
Repairing the Aneurysm
Before her valve replacement, a cardiac catheterization revealed another heart issue – Christine also had a dilated ascending aorta (aortic aneurysm) that required surgical repair.
"Just like a balloon pops if you keep blowing air into it, blood pressure stretches a dilated aorta. If it grows big enough, the artery can rupture – an immediately life-threatening condition," explains Dr. Auteri. "That's why it is important for patients who have or have had an aneurysm to see the doctor regularly and keep blood pressure under control." To correct Christine's problem, Dr. Auteri replaced the dilated portion of her ascending aorta with a tube graft.
Doylestown Health Gets an A+
"I felt connected with Doylestown Health from beginning to end," says Christine. "I received excellent care, and the entire experience was smooth, positive and upbeat."
"Christine was fascinated to learn about all aspects of the procedure, including asking for before and after photos of her valve," says Dr. Auteri, who recommends that patients ask lots of questions, as long as they are comfortable having the information.
Now retired and enjoying a new phase of her life, Christine reflects on her experience, "It was very important that my caregivers answered my questions. The team at Doylestown Health demonstrated knowledge and skills I could rely on, and support from family and friends made a difference on a daily basis. I put my trust in God to guide me to the right path and choices, and I truly believe that's what happened."
Doylestown Health's Valve Clinic combines the expertise of cardiologists, interventionists, surgeons and a dedicated coordinator to provide prompt assessments and advanced treatment options for valve disease. The valve clinic coordinator, a nurse practitioner, collaborates with the entire care team to coordinate each patient's evaluation, diagnostic studies and subspecialist appointments to ensure they receive comprehensive, streamlined care.
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About Doylestown Health's Heart & Vascular Services
Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. Doylestown Hospital’s accredited Chest Pain Center is fully prepared to treat cardiac emergencies around the clock, focusing on rapid diagnosis and effective treatment. The multidisciplinary team at the Richard A. Reif Heart Institute is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.