Booz­man surgery slated as fol­low-up to aorta tear

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - FRANK E. LOCK­WOOD

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Sen. John Booz­man, who un­der­went emer­gency heart surgery to fix a torn aorta in 2014, will have a fol­low-up surgery Tues­day in north­ern Vir­ginia.

The Repub­li­can from Rogers said he’ll likely spend three to five days in the hos­pi­tal, fol­lowed by “a cou­ple of weeks of re­ally tak­ing it easy.”

Booz­man, 66, orig­i­nally planned to have the surgery early this month, at the start of the Au­gust re­cess, but de­layed the oper­a­tion af­ter Se­nate lead­ers asked law­mak­ers to stay an ex­tra week.

The surgery, which Booz­man re­ferred to as a “tweak,” is sched­uled for three weeks be­fore the Se­nate re­con­venes.

“It’s a good time to do it, and then I should be blow­ing and go­ing. We’re go­ing to have a re­ally busy Septem­ber, I be­lieve, when we come back,” he said.

Doc­tors had been en­cour­ag­ing Booz­man for the past 18 months or so to get the sec­ond surgery, he said.

This time, it isn’t an emer­gency, he added.

The aorta is the body’s main artery. Roughly a foot long and more than an inch in di­am­e­ter, it helps de­liver oxy­genated blood through­out the body.

When there is an aor­tic dis­sec­tion — a tear in the in­ner­most layer of the artery — it can cause the mid­dle and outer lay­ers to sep­a­rate and tear, po­ten­tially rup­tur­ing the aorta it­self.

A tear in the as­cend­ing aorta, which pumps blood to the brain and arm, is “a sur­gi­cal emer­gency” and a “life-threat­en­ing prob­lem” that must be dealt with im­me­di­ately, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Mo­hammed Moursi, pro­fes­sor and chief of vas­cu­lar and en­dovas­cu­lar surgery at the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas for Med­i­cal Sci­ences.

“If an aorta rup­tures, most of the time that re­sults in the demise of the pa­tient,” he said.

Roughly 3 out of ev­ery 100,000 peo­ple have aor­tic dis­sec­tion in any given year, he said.

Moursi, who isn’t treat­ing Booz­man, said pa­tients with an as­cend­ing dis­sec­tion are typ­i­cally placed on a heart and lung by­pass ma­chine so that the doc­tors can re­move the por­tion of the aorta that is torn, he said.

It is re­placed with man­made ma­te­rial.

“There’s a wo­ven fab­ric, usu­ally dacron, and you re­place the dis­sected aorta with this piece of pros­thetic ma­te­rial that’s a tube and you sew it in place,” he said.

Booz­man was rushed to Mercy Hos­pi­tal in North­west Arkansas in April 2014 af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ex­cru­ci­at­ing arm and chest pain. The doc­tors dis­cov­ered a tear in Booz­man’s as­cend­ing aorta and rushed him into surgery, op­er­at­ing on him for nine hours.

He wasn’t able to re­turn to the Se­nate for roughly six weeks. The law­maker says the physi­cians saved his life that day.

“They went in and fixed it. My lo­cal hos­pi­tal patched me to­gether. They just did a tremen­dous job,” he said.

Booz­man said roughly 30 per­cent of the pa­tients who un­dergo aor­tic dis­sec­tion surg­eries end up need­ing a fol­low-up oper­a­tion.

Moursi, while not com­ment­ing

“It’s a good time to do it, and then I should be blow­ing and go­ing. We’re go­ing to have a re­ally busy Septem­ber, I be­lieve, when we come back.”

— U.S. Sen. John Booz­man, R-Rogers

on Booz­man’s par­tic­u­lar case, said there are var­i­ous rea­sons why a sec­ond oper­a­tion is nec­es­sary.

Some­times, there are prob­lems with the pros­thetic ma­te­rial. In other in­stances, there are por­tions of the aorta that are weak, dis­sected or en­larged, he said.

Booz­man said Tues­day’s surgery will be per­formed by an aorta-dis­sec­tion spe­cial­ist.

“He does it all day ev­ery day,” the sen­a­tor said.

The de­fec­tive aorta ap­pears to be con­gen­i­tal and oth­er­wise, Booz­man is in good health, he said.

“I re­ally don’t have any other prob­lems. My heart is fine. My vas­cu­lar sys­tem is great,” he said.

Asked whether his own med­i­cal chal­lenges had af­fected his views on the health care de­bate, Booz­man said, “When you’re in a sit­u­a­tion where you your­self get sick, then you look at the sys­tem to­tally dif­fer­ent.”

Ex­press­ing grat­i­tude for the peo­ple at Mercy Hos­pi­tal, Booz­man said his own med­i­cal emer­gency “il­lus­trates the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity hos­pi­tals. If I’d had to travel an ex­tended pe­riod [to reach a hos­pi­tal] I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have made it, so it’s im­por­tant that we have re­ally good qual­i­fied peo­ple in our com­mu­ni­ties spread out through­out Arkansas.”

When Congress re­turns, Booz­man said it should work to sta­bi­lize the na­tion’s health care sys­tem “for the next year or two as we fig­ure out a big­ger so­lu­tion.”

Let­ting it im­plode is not an ac­cept­able op­tion, he added.


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