Tuesday, January 13, 2009
All Access: Open Heart Surgery
Hospital dramas make popular TV shows, but what exactly happens inside the real operating room? The medical team at Memorial Regional Hospital gave us an All Access pass to open-heart surgery. Here's Seven's Dave Kartunen.
WSVN -- On the hit show House, there's always a bizarre case and lots of drama unfolding in the operating room, but for this group of surgeons and nurses at Memorial Regional Hospital's cardiac unit, saving lives is just part of what they do every day.
Dr. Michael Cortelli: "I would say we do anywhere between one and three surgeries a day."
On this day, we have an all access pass as cardio-thoracic surgeon Michael Cortelli and his team perform an aortic valve replacement on a 79-year-old woman.
Dr. Michael Cortelli: "She has a history of shortness of breath. She was also hospitalized one time for congestive heart failure."
Before the first incision is made the team checks and double checks everything, but pre-op prep isn't just about the instruments and patient safety with the Eagles' "Hotel California" playing in the background.
Dr. Cortelli and his assistants begin to cut through the chest cavity to get to the patient's heart, but they never really know what to expect until they get into the heart.
Dr. Michael Cortelli: "Wow, there's a lot of plaque."
The patient has a buildup of calcium deposits. Now Dr. Cortelli has to actually stop her heart from beating in order to clean it out. The heart lung machine, which is keeping her alive is shut off.
Sean Murtha: "It's called hyperpolarization. We're adding a bunch of medications to make it not be able to beat."
Within a few minutes, they're ready to bring the heart back. Two critical minutes later, the patient's heart is beating once again, and it's time to put in the new valve.
Dr. Michael Cortelli: "Everyone double checks it, the expiration date, to make sure this is the appropriate valve going in that patient."
Three exhausting hours later, the surgery is complete.
Dr. Michael Cortelli: "Surgery went fine. It was a little bit more complicated than we expected. There was a lot of calcification of her aorta."
Dr. Cortelli admits it's not as dramatic as TV.
Dr. Michael Cortelli: "In fact, I always joke whenever things are going OK, and I'm maybe waiting for an instrument. I'll say, 'That's not how they do it on TV,' you know."
But he knows he has to perform perfectly for the lives hanging in the balance on his operating table.
Dr. Michael Cortelli: "This was a very complicated case and a case with a lot of risk, and no one will appreciate how bad it was expect us because we saw what we had to deal with."
Dave Kartunen: "But there is little time to reflect on the case. Right after our surgery, Dr. Cortelli was on to the next."