Innovative, Less Invasive Heart Procedure Available Close to Home

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Jim Brozzo of Sanford had a very busy 2015 – within the year, he had to undergo three procedures. First, he needed a stent to repair an artery that was almost totally blocked. Next, he had a pacemaker implanted. Finally, he had a type of tumor, known as an inverted papilloma, removed from the base of his brain.

Jim and Sally BrozzoAfter his heart procedures, Brozzo was encouraged to attend cardiac rehabilitation to strengthen his heart and lungs. His wife, Sally, joined him for the workouts. “We did really well,” he said. “For 12 months, we never missed a single Monday, Wednesday or Friday at rehab,” he said.

However, in late October 2016, everything changed. “I always used the treadmill for 10 minutes at the end of a rehab session,” Brozzo said. “One day while I was finishing up on the treadmill, I suddenly felt like I hit a wall.”

He said the incident was unsettling but not painful. “I have never experienced a single pain with any of my heart issues,” he said. “I have breathing problems, not heart pain.” Brozzo battled asthma as a child and now works to manage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. While he initially blamed the unusual episode on COPD, he decided to consult Family Medicine Physician Sasha Savage, M.D.

While listening to his patient’s heart, Dr. Savage detected a murmur and ordered further testing. The next day, an echocardiogram indicated that Brozzo’s aortic valve was failing.

“They told me that if I did nothing, I faced a 50 percent chance of mortality within two years,” Brozzo said.

Because of the COPD and his age – he was 85 at the time – traditional open heart surgery to replace his failing valve was deemed to be too much of a risk. Fortunately, a new, less invasive procedure known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), is now available for patients who may not be able to tolerate traditional open heart surgery. The procedure involves using a catheter to insert an artificial aortic valve through an artery in the neck, leg or between the ribs, and placing it inside the patient’s diseased heart valve while the heart is still beating.

Because the procedure is minimally invasive, patients generally heal more quickly. On the other hand, TAVR is not appropriate for every patient. It is a more complex surgery, carries its own set of risks and requires the involvement of a multidisciplinary team of specialists representing the areas of interventional cardiology, advanced cardiac imaging and cardiothoracic surgery.

“I had to wait until February 14 to have the surgery,” Brozzo said. “I had to be cleared for it because it is a relatively new procedure. However, I’m not a fan of going off to Cleveland or Minneapolis and I had no intention of going anywhere else when I could have it in Midland.”

Interventional Cardiologist and Structural Heart Disease Specialist Nestor Mercado, M.D., Ph.D., and Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon Robert Jones, M.D., were key members of the cardiovascular team who repaired Brozzo’s heart at MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland.

“Dr. Jones and Dr. Mercado are two of the finest doctors I’ve ever met,” Brozzo said. “I have nothing but good things to say about all the doctors and staff at MidMichigan.”

Brozzo was on his feet a few hours after surgery and was in the hospital for only two days. “The first night I did a walkabout and did another one early the next morning,” he said.

He is deeply grateful for the support he and his wife received from their children and for the care he received at the Medical Center. “I was treated so well while I was there,” Brozzo said. “Everyone was polite and patient, helpful and kind.”

Brozzo recuperated quickly and returned to cardiac rehabilitation after one month. “I still struggle with breathing, mostly from inactivity, so I work hard at rehab,” he said.

As his recovery continues, Brozzo and his wife are looking forward to resuming their travel schedule, which includes an annual trip with their children and a ski trip to the Rockies for the two of them. He encourages others to be vigilant and proactive about maintaining their good health. “Life is too precious,” he said. “Do what you need to do and get the help you need.”

MidMichigan Health offers a full array of heart and vascular services, including open heart surgery, advanced vascular surgery, electrophysiology for heart rhythm problems and advanced interventional procedures. Those who would like additional information on MidMichigan’s comprehensive cardiovascular team may visit



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