Gentler surgery rebuilds Jose’s heart

Rodriguez Jose

Two years ago, Jose Rodriguez, a 40-year-old contractor from Des Moines, wasn’t feeling well. He had some pressure in his chest, felt tired and down when he was home in the evening, and felt pain in his upper back.

“But I didn’t go to the doctor until I lifted something at work and hurt my lower back,” he said.

Listening to his heart, his doctor heard the unmistakable murmur caused by a narrowing of the valve that sends blood from the heart through the aorta and then to the rest of the body. Left untreated, aortic stenosis makes the heart work harder and harder, leading to heart failure, even sudden death.

Rodriguez’s doctor referred him to the UI Heart and Vascular Center, where he learned that a minimally invasive procedure, involving a small incision, would work in his case.

Being a candidate for minimally invasive surgery “was a huge relief,” said Rodriguez, the father of three young daughters, who dreaded a more extensive open-heart surgery done through the breastbone.

The minimally invasive approach—where a surgeon accesses the heart and valve through a five to eight centimeter incision in the patient’s side—reduces the trauma from surgery, resulting in faster recovery, better mobility, a smaller scar, and minimal pain for the patient.

Minimally invasive surgery is technically more difficult to perform, but UI physicians have extensive expertise in valve repair and both open and minimally invasive techniques. The center’s world class cardiac care has successfully treated patients between the ages of 20 and 90 through minimally invasive techniques.

After his surgery, Rodriguez spent five days in the hospital and felt some pain from the incision, but the pain and discomfort that had bothered him before the surgery was gone. He says, simply, “I feel great today.”

Today, Rodriguez is back at work, running his business, and raising a family with his wife, Norma.