Patient Awake During Heart Surgery

ByABC News
August 11, 2000, 8:38 AM

M I A M I, Aug. 12 -- A 61-year-old man stayed awake for the entire4-hour, 10-minute open heart surgery operation performed on him bya team of three doctors.

Dr. Mark Anderson of the Miami Veterans Affairs Medical Center performed a single coronary artery bypass graft Thursday using only an epidural, an anesthetic shot injected into the spinal cord.

The operation began at 8:10 a.m. and was over at 12:20 p.m. The patient, whose name was not made public, was reported to be in stable condition at the hospital Thursday evening.

The two doctors who assisted in the operation, Juan Restrepo and Gerard DeSouza, said they believed the operation was just the second of its kind to be performed in the United States.

This is a very tricky operation, Restrepo said after the procedure. As well as upsides, there are risks in doing it this way.

The anesthetic procedure meant doctors did not have to insert a tube down the patients windpipe. Using an epidural instead of a general anesthetic also reduces a patients recovery time, in part because there is much less stress response on a respirator.

The downside, said DeSouza, is that a higher level of anesthesia is injected into the spinal cord than is used with general anesthesia. That means the anesthetic has to be closely monitored because it can stop a patient from breathing.