Shadowing: Open Heart Surgery
by Lorien E. Menhennett
Yesterday, I shadowed an anesthesiologist friend of mine. I had shadowed him before, and seen some amazing procedures, both in terms of the anesthesiology and the surgery. But this time was the best by far. I got to see a fascinating cardiac case — open heart surgery. It was a complex case; a double valve replacement (mitral and aortic) and a valve repair to boot (tricuspid).
One interesting thing was that before the surgery, they weren’t entirely sure whether they were going to be repairing the tricuspid valve. So the anesthesiologist did an echo by sliding a probe into the patient, near the patient’s heart, and rotating the probe to look at the different valves on a screen. He could also turn on a blood flow feature, which showed us different colors, each color illustrating a different blood velocity. This allowed us to see whether there was regurgitation, aka “regurg,” which there was, from all three valves in question. (The image of a heart echo here shows mitral regurgitation, or blood flowing in the wrong direction, similar to what this patient had.)
It was a long surgery; around five hours. (And this does not count the time the anesthesiologists spent prepping and anesthetising the patient.) I felt privileged to be able to see how modern medicine has made such a procedure possible. And so incredibly ready to start medical school …