A heart murmur was the first indication that something might be wrong with Eric Gonsalves’ heart valve. His physician heard the murmur during an exam and recommended some tests to find out if he had aortic stenosis. “I didn’t think I was experiencing any symptoms,” says Mr. Gonsalves. “I did get tired when I was climbing hills during a vacation to Spain and Portugal. I thought it was just old age.”
Aortic stenosis is a condition in which the leaflets (or cusps) of the valve become restricted in their motion, often due to calcium buildup narrowing the opening through the valve. As a result, the heart is forced to work harder and less efficiently in order to maintain an adequate amount of blood flow through the body. When severe, this added workload on the heart can result in heart failure.
After undergoing an echocardiogram and an angiogram, Mr. Gonsalves was told he had aortic stenosis and needed surgery. “My physician said I would need my aortic valve replaced,” he recalls. Both family and friends recommended Northwestern Memorial and Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, chief of Cardiac Surgery at Northwestern Memorial, director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and the Heller-Sacks Professor of Surgery at Feinberg. Taking matters into his own hands, Mr. Gonsalves turned to the Internet to help guide his decision. Once on the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute’s website, Mr. Gonsalves reviewed physician information and was able to learn about mortality statistics for aortic valve surgery at Northwestern Memorial.
Then, after reading about one of Dr. McCarthy’s patients with positive outcomes after undergoing an aortic valve surgery, he made his decision. “I wanted Dr. McCarthy to do my surgery because, in my opinion, he is the best.”
Mr. Gonsalves made an appointment at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, and upon evaluation, Dr. McCarthy discovered that his aortic stenosis had reduced blood flow through his aortic valve to only 25 percent of normal. Dr. McCarthy performed a minimally invasive aortic valve replacement in May of 2009.
“During the surgery, Dr. McCarthy kept my wife and daughter updated through phone calls each time a major step was taken,” says Mr. Gonsalves. “That was wonderful because it gave my wife assurance that everything was going well. All the physicians and nurses at Northwestern Memorial were great, including my cardiologist, Dr. Kansal.” Preeti Kansal, MD, is a cardiologist on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial and assistant professor of Medicine at Feinberg.
Today Mr. Gonsalves is back to his busy career as a senior banking consultant and gardens in his spare time. “My parents both lived past 80,” he says. “I’m 62 and still going strong.”