St. Elizabeth Hospital offers Valley's first minimally invasive heart surgery
Affinity's Dr. Zenoun Abouzelam only surgeon to do procedure in Fox Valley
05 / 23 / 2008
Maria Nelson, Media Relations
Affinity Health System
(920) 554-0686 (pager)
APPLETON, Wis. – To look at Little Chute native Brian Huiting, you would think he was the picture of health.
You would never guess that the 28-year-old construction manager and former high school and college football player had gone through heart surgery. Huiting was born with an abnormally structured aortic valve, which can age faster than normal and become leaky or stiff.
Huiting has a family history of heart disease. His father and three uncles all have had heart valve disease, and two have required surgery. Huiting was told that eventually his heart valve would need to be surgically replaced, but he was hoping that it would be later in his life rather than sooner.
However, that time came around Christmas 2007 when his Affinity Medical Group cardiologist, Dr. Frederic Hildebrand, Jr., recommended surgery. “I was a little shocked when he brought up the subject,” Huiting remembers. “I wasn’t prepared to go through with it.”
But rather than the traditional procedure where the sternum, or chest bone, is completely divided to replace the valve, Hildebrand raised the possibility of Huiting having minimally invasive surgery that would shorten his hospital stay, lessen his recovery time and result in only a four-inch scar.
“Brian was afraid to have this done at such an early age,” says Hildebrand. “When I brought up the minimally invasive option, his apprehension faded away.”
Minimally invasive heart surgery is a growing trend throughout the U.S., and Huiting was the first patient in Northeast Wisconsin to have this type of procedure. The surgery was performed by Dr. Zenoun Abouzelam, Affinity Medical Group cardiac surgeon, at
“This is a new technique that is less traumatic than traditional heart surgery,” Abouzelam says. “Given Brian’s age and overall health, this was the best option for him, although we can do this same procedure on people in their 50s and 60s.”
Abouzelam made a four-inch incision in Huiting’s chest and then using specialized surgical equipment and cameras, replaced his heart valve. “On most patients who need any kind of valve replacement, this will now become the standard procedure,” Abouzelam says.
In addition to the smaller incision and scar, the benefits of minimally invasive heart surgery include:
- Reduced risk of infection;
- Less bleeding during the procedure;
- Less pain and trauma;
- Decreased length of stay in hospital after the procedure: the average stay is three to five days after minimally invasive surgery, compared with five days after traditional heart surgery;
- Decreased recovery time: the average recovery time after minimally invasive heart surgery is two to four weeks, compared with six to eight weeks after traditional heart surgery.
Four weeks after his surgery, Huiting was cleared from most of the restrictions he was placed under and returned to work on a part-time basis. “I feel really good,” Huiting says. “I spoke with a guy who has had this done twice through the traditional way and he was laid up for a long time.
“I wish I didn’t have to go through this at such an early age but I’m glad that I was able to have the minimally invasive surgery,” Huiting says. “Things went real well.”
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For the Editor:
Affinity Health System, a faith-based regional health care network, is the Fox Valley’s second-largest employer, according to the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry. For the fourth consecutive year, Affinity has been named one of the nation’s top 64 health systems based on clinical performance according to Thomson Reuters, a leading provider of information and solutions to improve the cost and quality of health care. For ten consecutive years, Affinity Health System has been named to the SDI (formerly Verispan) Integrated Health Network Top 100, an annual assessment of the 100 most highly integrated health care networks in the nation. Both St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton and Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh rank among the top 1 percent of hospitals nationwide in terms of quality and efficiency, as determined by the 2007 Premier | CareScience Select practice National Quality Award. Members of Affinity include Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Health Foundation, Oshkosh; St. Elizabeth Hospital and the St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, Appleton; Affinity Medical Group, a regional network of 25 family practice and specialty clinics – 22 of which are recognized as NCQA Level III medical homes, the highest level of recognition – in 14 communities; Calumet Medical Center, Chilton; and Affinity Occupational Health.