One Man’s Experience With 3 Open-Heart Surgeries

In October 2022, 65-year-old David Mason planned to have his third and final open-heart procedure. In the operating room, he was joined by Michael Moront, MD, FACS, ProMedica Physicians Cardiothoracic Surgeons. It was the same surgeon who gave him his first heart valve replacement almost 30 years ago. David was nervous, but knew he was in good hands.

Valve Replacements: Biologic vs. Mechanical

In 1994, David needed a heart valve replacement. The valve in his heart was leaking, causing blood to go in the wrong direction every time his heart beat. The problem was discovered during his routine physical, when his health care provider heard a heart murmur.

“When the aortic valve is blocked or leaks, the heart has to overwork to overcome the blockage,” explains Dr. Moront. “These are fairly common in America, and if caught early can be taken care of with excellent results.”

David and Dr. Moront chose to go with a biologic valve replacement, made from the tissue of a pig or cow. Biologic valves do not require blood thinning medicine after the procedure. But, unfortunately, they do wear out quicker than a mechanical valve replacement.

“When patients are young, it’s not uncommon to have multiple surgeries. Biologic valve replacements may last 10-15 years because they tend to calcify,” explains Dr. Moront. “Mechanical valves can last 40-50 years, but you’ll form clots on the mechanical valve if you don’t take blood thinners.”

David did have to have another valve replacement in 2014. Again, he chose the biologic valve. Then in 2021, he developed an aneurysm and some leakage, which required a third surgery.

“Dr. Moront and I both agreed that since I was going to have surgery, that they would replace the biologic valve with a mechanical valve,” says David. “The mechanical valve will outlive me. They repaired the aneurysm too, the inflation of the artery that was close to the heart.”

“We felt it was important that he get the last heart surgery he needed, especially because he’s young,” says Dr. Moront. “Every time you go in for surgery there’s an increased risk, so it’s not a casual thing to reoperate.”

Collaborative Heart Care Over the Decades

After his third open-heart surgery, David is doing well. He’s completed cardiac rehabilitation and is taking blood thinners.

“I was nervous, because the older you are, the higher your risk and the recovery time is longer. Basically, with a procedure like that it’s hard to get your strength and stamina back,” he says. “I’ve been surprised; the recovery has been smoother than I anticipated, given my age. Within a month of getting home I was driving again and able to do most things. I did have to be careful with lifting weight.”

To make sure patients like David get the best care and treatment, they are followed by a multidisciplinary team that includes cardiologists, surgeons and other health care professionals working together collaboratively. This team meets in person to review 10-15 cases every week.

After surgery, patients should follow up with their cardiologist routinely. They don’t typically have continued care with the cardiac surgeon. However, if the need for a surgery arises, sometimes they are able to have a surgeon who previously treated them.

“I’ve been blessed that Dr. Moront has been my surgeon for all three procedures,” says David. “He knows my history, and he’s great to have as a surgeon. He tells you like it is, but he’s also very understanding and empathetic.”

Prior to the third surgery, Dr. Moront recommended that David consult with another facility for a second opinion to make sure he was fully comfortable with his care plan.

“Their diagnosis and course forward was exactly what Dr. Moront had said. That gave me more confidence in the procedure,” David shares.

Taking Care of Your Heart

David’s focus on prevention, resilience through three open-heart surgeries and commitment to rehabilitation are a huge part of his outcome. Because his heart issues were discovered through routine care and monitoring, he encourages everyone to keep up with their annual exams.

“I’m a huge believer in preventive medicine. My advice to anyone is don’t miss your doctor’s appointment. It really might save your life,” he says.

For anyone facing an open-heart surgery, David knows it can be scary.

“My experience at ProMedica Toledo Hospital was very good. The staff, the step-down unit – they were outstanding,” he reassures.

And, after everything, David still has his humor. He adds, “And the hospital food isn’t as bad as people say.”