Heart Surgery: Operating Outside the Body

FRESNO, Calif. Racecar driver David Jenkins likes living on the edge ... but a series of medical tests gave this daredevil an adrenaline rush he never expected: a tumor the size of a lemon on the back of his heart.

"It all happened so fast," Jenkins told Ivanhoe.

"Inevitably, it would have caused death for the man because of the size of it, and it basically impairs blood flow," David Peterseim, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Roper St. Francis in Charleston, S.C., told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Peterseim wanted to try something drastic -- a heart surgery he'd never performed before. "It was on the back wall of his heart -- the left atrium -- and this is a very bad place to have a tumor," Dr. Peterseim explained.

In an eight-hour surgery, Dr. Peterseim opened Jenkins' chest and removed his heart from his body, leaving it attached by one large vein. A bypass machine kept Jenkins' blood flowing while chilled blood kept his heart preserved.

"So his heart was relaxed and asleep the whole time we were doing the heart aspect of the operation," Dr. Peterseim said.

Surgeons removed the mass.

"We sewed up all the tiny little blood vessels that were feeding that tumor."

Then, they reconstructed the back chamber with his own heart tissue.

"After we finished reconstructing him, then we let his heart wake back up," Dr. Peterseim added.

Jenkins made a speedy recovery. He was home from the hospital in about a week.

"Sometimes, you can have something and take it for granted and something can happen to make you open your eyes and let you see," Jenkins said.

If the tumor was left untreated, doctors say Jenkins would have had six to eight months to live. A scan six months after the surgery shows he's disease-free.

If you would like more information, please contact: Roper St. Francis Healthcare (843) 402-2273 (CARE)

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