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It’s heart month, so we’re talking heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among women and men in the United States. Dr. Seenu Reddy, who specializes in cardiovascular surgery at TriStar Centennial Medical Center, says it’s important for people to understand that chest pain, perhaps the most commonly known symptom of heart disease, may only occur in about 25% of heart patients.   

“There are a lot of other equivalent symptoms,” says Dr. Reddy. “It’s also important for patients to know that there are more treatment options today than there used to be, and they should go to a center that has the type of approach that we do, which is a dedicated heart team approach.”

About eight years ago, Dr. Reddy and TriStar Centennial Medical Center cardiologist Dr. John Riddick began working together to provide patients with a combination of options suitable for specific heart problems. Last May, they created a unique solution for our newest FACE of TriStar, Theresa Lycans-Cain.  

“We combined the techniques of open heart bypass surgery and catheter based aortic valve surgery,” Dr. Reddy says.   

In fact, he says the technique was so unique that it was the first of its kind performed in Tennessee and one of just a few done that way around the country. We talked to Dr. Reddy and Theresa to learn more about her symptoms, her surgery and how she’s doing today.  

Meet our newest FACE of TriStar, Theresa Lycans-Cain.

Meet our newest FACE of TriStar, Theresa Lycans-Cain.

Theresa, what symptoms were you having?

I started having bouts of shortness of breath occasionally. It wasn’t daily, just occasionally, but a couple of times it was pretty severe … scary. I kept thinking that it was caused from letting myself get too out of shape for a few years. But then my blood pressure spiked, so I decided I’d better see someone.

What happened next?

The on-site nurse practitioner at work convinced me that my symptoms were serious enough to see a cardiologist. Her team contacted Dr. Riddick and got me in to see him quickly. He ran some tests to determine just how serious my condition was. The tests revealed a need for aortic valve replacement and blockage that would require bypass surgery, and I was referred to Dr. Reddy.

Dr. Reddy, can you explain what was unique about Theresa’s surgery?

What made her surgery so unique is the combination of simultaneous procedures we performed for her. Her medical problem was that she had a combination of aortic stenosis, which is a narrowing of the aortic valve, and left main coronary artery disease, which are blockages in the main artery of the heart muscle. Normally for that situation, we would basically do open heart surgery and replace the heart valves and perform bypass surgery using a vein out of the leg or an artery off the back of the chest wall. However, the standard operation wasn’t possible because she had so much calcium built up around her aorta.  So, we utilized a new technology that requires the combination of an open beating heart bypass procedure (because she couldn’t have stents placed because of where the blockages were located) as well as putting in a heart valve through the aorta in an area where she didn’t have calcium. This unique process meant that we would not have to put Theresa on the heart lung machine during her surgery. So, we actually operated on her beating heart to build the bypasses and then we put the heart valve in utilizing a technology called TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement).

But instead of going up through the groin, our team of cardiac specialists worked collaboratively together to deliver the heart catheter as an open chest procedure. This is highly uncommon, however, we felt it was the best approach to take to address Theresa’s condition.  It was a solution that was developed through a collaboration between Dr. Riddick’s and Dr. Reddy’s cardiac specialist teams.

Theresa Lycans-Cain — FACES of TriStar

After experiencing shortness of breath and then a spike in blood pressure, Theresa knew it was time to see a specialist.

Theresa, what can you say about your experience with Dr. Reddy?

Dr. Reddy was, throughout this experience, very pleasant and showed sincere concern. He was always positive and instilled confidence in his ability to take care of the problem in the best way possible. He and the team of surgeons he worked with did an excellent job of defining the best course of action for my individual case. I thank God for them all.

You were in the hospital for about six days. What was that like and how did you feel throughout that process?

Well, to say the least, it was not any fun. I experienced the most pain of my life. But overall I had a good experience — as much as heart surgery can be a “good” experience.

How difficult was your recovery period?

It wasn’t easy. I kept wondering if I would ever feel normal again. However, several weeks in, and after getting my medication adjusted, and with God’s help, I started gaining strength daily.

How do you feel now?

I feel great!

Theresa’s not the only one thrilled that she’s feeling better!

How has surgery/treatment changed your life?

I had no idea how bad I actually felt before the surgery.  I thought that I was a really healthy person. I took good care of myself in general.  Now I can breathe better than I have in years. I have much more energy now and weight management is much easier. I feel so much better now.

Dr. Reddy, given that February is Heart Month, what are the most crucial things people should do or know about heart health?

A person should not take heart health for granted. If you have risk factors, get screened. If you don’t, then practice prevention (diet, exercise, avoiding tobacco and tobacco-like products), and pay close attention to the symptoms of heart disease in both you — and your family.

Thank you, Theresa and Dr. Reddy, for sharing your experience and expertise with our readers. And thank you to Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography for the beautiful photos.

To learn more about TriStar Centennial Medical Center, visit TriStarCentennial.com.

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