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This Woman's Heart Surgery Only Required A 1-Inch Incision

Karyn with her 3D heart.PNG
UC Heath
Heart patient Karyn Russell holds a 3D image of her heart that helped in the planning process for this minimally invasive procedure.

UC Health surgeons performed the first endoscopic triple valve procedure in the U.S. on a 63-year-old patient. Less than a week after surgery, the patient was cleared to drive to Chicago with family and have pizza.

A Taft Information Technology High School teacher is back in the classroom after heart surgery. The unusual part is that 63-year-old Karyn Russell’s incision is just an inch long. UC Health surgeons performed the first endoscopic triple valve procedure in the U.S. on her.

Normally replacing and repairing heart valves would involve cutting bone to get to the valves, but Russell had risk factors. The endoscopic option would mean fewer side effects and a faster recovery time.

For the minimally invasive procedure UC Health’s Tommaso Danesi, MD, and his team made a 3D model of her heart and then relied heavily on a camera.

“You have to base your surgery on indirect vision," Danesi says. "The surgery is 100% dependent on the thoracoscope.”

What Russell needed to fix her heart problem is commonly referred to as triple valve surgery. It's the replacement of the aortic and mitral valves and the repair of the tricuspid valve.

The 3D roadmap and digital printing provides surgeons with specific planning and novel methods to conceptualize their surgery in a digital space.

Dr. Danesi is one of only 12 physicians in the world who can perform advanced endoscopic heart valve surgery. On July 12, he operated on Russell.

Surgeons can do the procedure while the heart is beating. This lowers the risk to the patient, instead of having to stop the heart.

“I’m very grateful to Dr. Danesi because he made all the difference,” says Russell. “I have my health back.”

Less than a week after surgery, Russell was cleared to drive to Chicago with her family and have pizza. She can't wait to get back to hiking with her daughter and grandson.

“My wish to this approach to heart valves and some congenital heart defects can become the standard of care for all heart patients," says Danesi.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.