Sunday, November 22, 2009

What they’re planning on doing to Asher in the near future (WARNING: don’t read if you don’t want to know, or if you have a weak stomach)

I promised a while back that i would post the details of asher's upcoming surgeries as the time approached. Well, i have some time right now, so i guess, there's no time like the present. <shrug>

On Wednesday of this week (yup, only 3 days from now), they will be doing yet another pre-fontan cath. This is a diagnostic test. they will be looking at function and pressures in his heart and aortic arch. To do this, they will insert catheters into veins and arteries in his groin, and on each side of his neck. Then they will inject a special contrast dye into his bloodstream and watch where it goes, how fast, that sort of thing, using special x-ray equipment and such.

The docs in Toronto will use the information they gather on Wednesday to determine when they will do the next two surgeries.

That's right.

Two surgeries.

The first surgery will be asher's second arch reconstruction. This is necessary because of the special (read: new) technique they used during his first reconstruction, when he was 6 months old. At the time, they used the stent and tissue in his PDA (the ductus that allows blood to by-pass the lungs in utero, which they stented when he was 17 days old) to reconstruct his aortic arch. Well, asher being asher, he complicated something that should have been very, very simple. We all know of asher's fondness for scar tissue, and how much he loves putting obscene amounts of it around anything put in there by someone other than God (the surgeon's ego notwithstanding, lol). So asher's aortic arch is now full of scar tissue, which poses a number of problems. First, scar tissue doesn't grow, which means that, as asher grows (and the amount of blood in his system increases), his arch doesn't. So now he, at 3 years and 30 lbs, has more blood trying to flow through a vessel that hasn't grown since he was 6 months old and weighed about 17 lbs. That's a problem. The pressures in the arch are mounting (dr benson was freaked out by it back in February), and this problem is affecting the pressures and bloodflow further and further back through his cardiovascular system. this needs to be corrected.

And here's how they're gonna do it (skip ahead if you don't want to know the specific details): the plan is to go through his left side, under his arm. They can't put him on by-pass because it returns the blood to the body before the arch. So you can imagine what would happen if you had blood flowing through the arch while you're operating there. Not pretty, to say the least. So they have to put him on circulatory arrest <wave of nausea>. To do this, they have to lower his body temperature to the point where all function in his body (heart, major organs, brain) ceases. Basically, they press pause on the DVD-player of his body. Then they will do the surgery, removing the stent material (wire mesh) and scar tissue from the arch (i know how they do this. Trust me, you don't want to.) once they're done that, they close everything back up, and begin to return his body temperature to normal. And they cross their fingers, say a little prayer, and hope everything starts back up again. Excuse me while i vomit.

K, i'm back.

(you can start reading again, if you skipped ahead.) A week later, they will do his fontan. The reason for the delay is this: pressures. The arch reconstruction and the fontan will each result in significant changes in the pressures in and around his heart, and if those pressures fluctuate too widely in a short period of time, bad things can happen. So we don't want that. I'll take the extra time in Toronto, thank-you very much.

So here's the details of the fontan (this one isn't as bad as the other): there are two major veins that bring the blood into the heart. The superior vena cava (SVC) brings blood from the head, neck and upper body; the inferior vena cava (IVC) brings blood from the lower body. The Glenn shunt (which asher had at 6 months) removes the SVC from the right atrium (first collecting chamber) and attaches it to the right pulmonary artery (RPA - vessel that carries blood to the right lung). This procedure creates a bi-directional blood flow (blood travels both ways through the pulmonary arteries) to the lungs. A fontan circulation requires that the IVC also be attached to the RPA. So they connect it at the top, and put a wall in between the IVC and the right atrium, which stops blood from going into the heart. Once the fontan is complete, his circulation will become passive, meaning that it skips the heart, goes straight to the lungs, and only comes to the heart once it has been oxygenated. One pump sends the blood throughout the entire body.

Now, as i mentioned earlier, the change in pressures during the fontan is big. So, in order to lower the risk associated with pressure changes, they leave holes (fenestrations) in the wall between the IVC and heart. These holes are closed in the cath lab, usually about a year later.

Oh, did i mention that this is open heart surgery? Looking back, i don't see that anywhere. So yeah, it's open heart.

Asher's cath is this coming Wednesday. And lately, while he has improved somewhat as far as energy, eating and mood, he has been grey – yes, grey – since yesterday afternoon. And if we know anything at all, we heart moms know that grey = bad. But at least he's doing it now, right before the cath, so they'll find what's going on and deal with it.

Ok, there you go. A long post, a thorough post, but i thought i'd get this out of the way while i can still stomach the details.


Diane said...


And you're coming Wednesday for the cath? I could've sworn it was Tuesday, the 24th...

ChristophersHeart said...

(((hugs)) Heather. I vomited with you about the circulatory arrest. I think that signing that horrid consent form once in a mom's life is enough, and I am so sorry you have to sign it twice.

I will be thinking of you on Wednesday, hoping all goes well. Once you know dates for the other surgeries, let me know as I am going to do my best to be there with you.

ChristophersHeart said...

I will be there for sure for visits, but I will try to be there on the surgeries days if I can arrange it. I will be your "go get me.....whatever" girl and provide lots of hand holding and hugs. <3

Heather said...

diane: the pre-cath clinic is tuesday, and the cath itself is on wednesday, so i'll be in toronto both those days. gimme a call and we'll figure something out. :)

wendy: HOORAY FOR "WHATEVER FAIRIES"!!!!!!! LOL i'll keep you posted with dates etc. <3

Kat Hat said...

Hope everything goes well on Wednesday...we will be thinking of you guys!
Circulatory would be so scary to have your child go through...OHS is hard enough to go through...I am sorry you have to go through this.

It's just my life....annie said...

Love you all lots!!!!!

many many prayers coming your way.