Repairing Heart Defects

The casket lies in state during memorial services for pop star Michael Jackson in Los Angeles July 7, 2009.
REUTERS/POOL
In June of this year, Early Show guest co-anchor Charlie Rose underwent routine elective open-heart surgery. The surgery was to repair a defective valve from a congenital heart defect he had all his life.

The operation was a complete success and Rose says he has been feeling great ever since. He invited his surgeon, Dr. Wayne Isom of New York Presbyterian Hospital, to The Early Show to describe the surgery he performed and discuss what procedures are appropriate for others in similar situations.

Isom also performed emergency quintuple-bypass surgery on David Letterman more than two years ago. Unlike Letterman, who was whisked into surgery about an hour after doctors discovered a potentially deadly blockage in the arteries leading to his heart, Rose chose to have his procedure done. Rose, 60, had a defective heart valve replaced with a natural-tissue valve from a pig.

Dr. Isom said the operation called for an incision in the middle of his chest so that the surgeons could hook the heart to a heart and lung machine. Rose's heart was stopped so the aortic valve could be replaced and the mitral valve repaired. Then it was restarted and Rose was removed from the heart and lung machine. The procedure took a couple of hours. Rose was sent home in four days.

Good candidates for the surgery are people who have murmers or valves that are not functioning properly and are starting to get heart changes or enlargements in the heart muscle, indicating the heart muscle is overworked. However, a heart murmer alone doesn't mean you're a candidate. A lot of people have heart murmers.

Dr. Isom says there are a lot of doctors across the country who do the procedure and do it just as well as he does.

"I also wanted to mention the team, not just the surgeon. That's key to choosing the right doctor. Choose the right team," said Dr. Isom.