An Inoperable Heart Tumor Turned Operable: Brian’s Story
Brian Hodder, a 74-year-old retired farmer in New Zealand, noticed symptoms of wheezing as he lay on his left side in bed. He also had a slight, but persistent cough. About to leave on an eight-week overseas vacation with his wife Lois, Brian visited his family physician, who diagnosed him with asthma and gave him an inhaler to ease the symptoms. By the second week of his vacation, Brian experienced trouble keeping up with the group and his cough and wheezing continued to worsen. When he returned home, a local cardiothoracic surgeon finally uncovered the mystery: an inoperable heart tumor in the left pulmonary artery. Brian’s family braced itself for what appeared to be the inevitable end.
Meanwhile, Houston Methodist’s Dr. Michael Reardon was called by a former resident on staff at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. David Rice, who had received information on a patient in New Zealand dying from a pulmonary artery sarcoma, which is a rare neoplasm, or abnormal mass of tissue, that surfaced from the central pulmonary arteries. These arteries are responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the lungs. Doctors in both New Zealand and Australia had deemed the mass to be inoperable. Dr. Rice asked his colleague just one question: “What can we do?” Because Brian’s condition was covered by New Zealand’s national health service, Dr. Reardon and Dr. Rice actually made the trip to New Zealand to perform the operation.
The two Houston surgeons used an innovative method that to remove the left lung and the main pulmonary artery, along with a partial removal of the right pulmonary artery. However, before the surgery took place, the doctors also found that Brian had triple vessel coronary artery obstructive disease created by plaque buildup that was blocking the flow of blood through the arteries. Dr. Reardon and Dr. Rice performed a triple-vessel coronary bypass and the final pathology revealed the pulmonary artery angiosarcoma was free of tumors.
Today, Brian is living well and free of heart disease, thanks to the extraordinary effort made by his innovative and experienced team of doctors.
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