Cardiac Surgery Team Goes the Distance to Perform Life-Saving Procedure and Jump Start Overseas Heart Program
Monty, a 6-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback, was not doing well. He had a congenital malformation of his tricuspid valve and was in advanced heart failure. The cardiology team at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital had the technology and skills to help Monty, but there was a huge barrier between the team and the ailing dog – the Atlantic Ocean.
If it wasn’t for a bit of serendipity, Monty’s story might have ended there, but he is a lucky dog. Dr. Chris Orton, who heads up the CSU cardiac surgery team, had met Monty’s future veterinarian, Dr. Dan Brockman, while Dr. Brockman was at the University of Pennsylvania. At the time, Dr. Brockman was interested in starting a cardiac surgery program at the Royal Veterinary College in London once he returned to England. Some time later, the two met again at a conference in Paris, when Dr. Brockman told Dr. Orton about a patient of his who had a bad valve.
Monty’s tricuspid valve was very leaky because of a congenital malformation, a condition that causes heart failure over time, and Monty’s time had come.
“Plan A was for Monty to come to the United States for surgery here at CSU,” said Dr. Orton. “Coming here was no problem, but heading back to England was. Monty would have been put in quarantine for up to eight months, and that was simply impossible considering the post-surgical care he would need.”
Plan B? Bring the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital to Monty. Dr. Brockman took care of the logistics, including acquiring a heart/lung machine. The CSU cardiac surgery team sent over their materials, and Monty’s owner flew everyone over and took care of all expenses. The CSU team included Dr. Orton, lead surgeon; Dr. Khursheed Mama, anesthesiologist; Amy Rodriquez, anesthesia technician; Dr. Tim Hackett, critical care; Michele Pullaro, scrub nurse; and Dave Peterson, perfusionist.
“Our goal was twofold,” said Dr. Orton. “First, was to save this dog’s life. The second goal, and the one with greater long-term impact, was to help the Royal Veterinary College -- probably one of the top veterinary schools in the United Kingdom -- establish a cardiac surgery program. Each of our team members had a corresponding team member learning from them, so the surgery was able to save a life and teach cardiac surgical techniques.”
Monty, flown in by helicopter for his surgery, received an artificial valve on Jan. 8. The surgery went extremely well and Monty was able to return home four days later, despite being in advanced heart failure before the surgery. He continues to do well today. The CSU team plans to continue its work with the cardiac surgery program at the Royal Veterinary College, helping to build a program that may one day be the best on the other side of the Atlantic.