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Health Spotlight: Ross procedure ‘only valve replacement with a long-term survival’

Health Spotlight: Giving Stacey’s heart new life

(WISH) — A procedure called Ross is coming to the rescue for people born with heart defects.

Each year, more than 40,000 babies are born with congenital heart defects. These infants have problems with the structure and function of their hearts.

New procedures, technologies, and medications are helping these newborns live longer than ever before In fact, according to the American Heart Association, more U.S. adults are with congenital heart defects than children.

Now, the latest procedure is giving adults an even greater chance at living longer and healthier, including patient Stacey Zvokel. Just doing something as simple as walking her dogs, Remy and Josie, is something Zvokel couldn’t easily do a few years ago.

“I’m out of breath when I go up and down the stairs.”

Zvokel was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, meaning it had two flaps instead of three, making it difficult for her heart to pump blood into the body. “I had significant blockage where the blood flow was not coming in, which put me at risk for heart failure.”

She needed an aortic valve replacement.

Dr. William Brinkman, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital-Plano, Texas, said of Zvokel, “Stacey fits into the Ross category perfectly brcause she’s a young, active female who doesn’t want to be on any coagulation and wants to live a long time.”

Brinkman said the Ross procedure is the only operation that replaces the diseased aortic valve with the patient’s own tissue. “We are basically taking your pulmonary valve and moving it over to where the aortic valve was. The beauty of the Ross procedure is the only aortic valve replacement where you have your own living tissue still functioning as a valve.”

Studies show that the Ross procedure has a lower risk of stroke or clots forming, and it has a better long-term outcome compared to conventional aortic valve replacement.

The doctor said, “It’s the only valve replacement with a long-term survival, parallels the survival of the average American population, which is remarkable.”

The Ross procedure saved Zvokel’s heart and changed her life. She said, “I realized, ‘Oh, my word, I feel so good.’ I didn’t realize how bad I actually felt until I got better.”

The ideal patient for the Ross procedure is fit and younger than 50.

The other options for aortic valve replacements are a mechanical valve, which requires a lifetime of blood thinners, or the replacement of the valve with a cow-based or pig-based one, but they often tend to wear out in 10 to 15 years.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.