Patients go home sooner after minimally invasive heart valve surgery

Paul Massimiano, M.D.

Paul Massimiano, M.D.

As a busy lawyer juggling meetings, clients and court cases, John Kearns of Silver Spring couldn’t fathom taking time off for heart surgery. “My friend had heart surgery and it took him months to recover,” he says. “I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage that.”

Luckily, Kearns was a candidate for minimally invasive valve surgery at Washington Adventist Hospital—an option that had him home in one day and back to work a few weeks later.

“It all started with a heart murmur,” Kearns says. “I was told in the past it was nothing unusual, nothing to worry about, but now my cardiologist said it was loud. Too loud.”

After a thorough evaluation, including an echocardiogram and cardiac catheterization, doctors discovered Kearns had severe mitral valve regurgitation—a condition where the heart’s mitral valve doesn’t close tightly, allowing blood to flow backward into the heart.

“I never would have guessed my heart wasn’t working right,” he says. “I had been experiencing some fatigue and a little weight gain, but at 52, I wrote that off as signs of aging.”

According to experts, his fatigue, along with the heart murmur, were symptoms of his leaky valve. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, heart palpitations and swollen feet or ankles.

Paul Massimiano, MD, heart surgeon and program director of cardiac surgery at Washington Adventist Hospital, determined that the minimally invasive repair would be the best option for Kearns. Dr. Massimiano and his team of heart surgeons helped pioneer the development of minimally invasive valve surgery, and joined Washington Adventist Hospital last year.

With a minimally invasive approach, incisions are smaller, which means a quicker, less painful recovery and a faster return to normal activity.

“I work with each patient to determine if a minimally invasive approach or a traditional approach is best,” Dr. Massimiano says. “Not everyone is a candidate for minimally invasive surgery.” It is important for patients to talk to their doctors to decide what is best for them.

“My wife and I were nervous,” Kearns says, “but we educated ourselves about the procedure, which helped ease our fears. We trusted Dr. Massimiano, and the quicker I could get back to normal life, and work, the better.”

Kearns was surprised at just how fast he recovered. These days he’s working out on the treadmill to rebuild his stamina and hopes to take up hiking again with his wife.

“Not that I’d ever wish to have heart surgery again,” Kearns says, “but if I had to, I wouldn’t change a thing.”