Avera Medical Minute: Healing a hole in her heart

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Looking at Melanie Fuller as she plays catch with her dogs in the back yard, you might not guess she had a device placed inside a hole in her heart just days ago. Melanie and her husband Tom are relieved to have the procedure behind them and it was less invasive than open-heart surgery.

Melanie Fuller received a Gore Occluder device to repair an atrial septal defect

Rather than an extensive amount of recovery time, Melanie has just a few restrictions; No driving in the first 24 hours, the first five days after surgery she can't lift more than ten pounds, and within the first thirty days, she has to keep her heart rate under one hundred twenty beats per minute.

The hole in Melanie's heart was discovered during medical tests in preparation for another procedure. It presented some unique challenges because the hole was larger than most devices could accommodate.

Avera Vascular and Interventional Cardiologist, North Central Heart Institute Dr. J. Michael Bacharach says Melanie's heart had the hole for a long time. "An atrial septal defect is a congenital anomaly," said Dr. Bacharach. "It is something you were born with and it is where the membrane or tissue between the two upper chambers of the heart incompletely forms and leaves a defect or a hole."

Although she didn't have some of the common symptoms of shortness of breath or loss of energy, there were other concerns.

"I had some palpitations, heart palpitations. During the day I didn't notice so much, but in the evening when you kind of calm down you can certainly feel that. And I had some high rhythms," said Fuller.

Dr. Bacharach says the procedure to place the device covering the hole in her heart starts in a minute form, as they go up through a vein to access her heart. It then is opened inside. Not only was this occluder device the first of its kind used in South Dakota, outside of clinical trials, but it was also the first time used in the nation.

"We actually go in on both sides, so typically we put in an ultrasound catheter, that we can put up into the right atrium, and we can twirl it around, actually see the defect, and then through the other side we take a catheter, a tube, and a wire, and we can cross the defect," said Dr. Bacharach.

Soon Melanie will be ready to take on her favorite activity, lacing up her running shoes. "Actually my husband and I both got married running a marathon, so that's a huge part of our lifestyle. Just looking forward to my normal runs with my dog Bella," said Fuller. "Really exciting that we can have this option of non-invasive surgery with just a week of recovery time and Dr. Bacharach did just a phenomenal job."