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Innovative Southlake procedure set Aurora resident on path to recovery

January 23, 2020   ·   0 Comments


Daniel Bryan was always an active guy. 

A fit teen who picked up accolades for his athletics, he did what he could to stay fit and healthy – and the diagnosis of a heart defect about 15 years ago did little to stand in his way.

More recently, however, his diagnosis of a mitral valve prolapse, a condition often detected alongside a heart murmur, left him facing a health challenge – and a crossroads – leading him to a solution flying just under the radar very close to home.

Mr. Bryan, an Aurora resident, was recently treated by Dr. Carolyn Teng, a cardiac surgeon at Southlake Regional Health Centre, one of the few experts in Ontario performing minimally invasive mitral valve repair and replacement surgery.

In many cases, a mitral valve prolapse is relatively harmless, but this past April, Mr. Bryan received a call from a local cardiology lab for a three-year follow-up. He didn’t know he needed a checkup and was expecting to pass the physical with flying colours, but tests told a different story. 

The disorder, which can adversely impact blood flow, was causing “severe regurgitation” that was putting extra stress on his heart, and surgery would be required to restore the balance.

“I have always been aware of heart surgery and people having big scars, and that was my initial reaction,” he says. “It’s not something anybody wants to have, but my attitude was, ‘If I have to have it to make me healthy, so be it.’ It was kind of a shock, but, at the same time, my friends kept saying I must be terrified – but I had a problem and they were going to fix me.”

It was a practical attitude, but a practical question followed: just where were the resources to have this kind of surgery? At the time, Mr. Bryan had no idea the best solution was just around the corner.

At first, his cardiologist, working out of a Newmarket lab, suggested scheduling surgery at his home hospital in Kingston, but a number of referrals later led to Southlake – and Dr. Teng – coming onto his radar.

Southlake is the only hospital in the GTA to offer cardiac patients a full spectrum of treatment options for mitral valve disease. In the past, according to the hospital, the only procedure available was open heart surgery – confirming Mr. Bryan’s initial concerns – but the unique two-prong approach Dr. Teng has brought to Southlake can help solve the problem with little more than a two-inch incision between the patient’s ribs on the right side of the chest.

Here, the doctor accesses and repairs (or replaces) the valve using a high definition camera and specialized instruments, leading to a much faster recovery for patients.

“When I originally came to Southlake, I was hired as a general cardiac surgeon, but I did have this specialized training in minimally invasive and robotics surgery with a specific emphasis on the mitral valve,” says Dr. Teng. “Then, as I was building my career, my chief of the division said, that would be something that would be beneficial to the members of our community that we start a minimally invasive program. I have been at other centres before and actually one downtown centre trying to start a minimally invasive program and I always say the reason why it succeeded here at Southlake is because we had a really good buy-in from the managers and from the administration to do something innovative that would be of some benefit to our communities.

“It really wasn’t difficult once we decided that we wanted to start minimally invasive programs to do so. It required buying specialized tools to do it and through the help of our Foundation and generous donations from the community we’re able to acquire the instruments that we needed to start our program. From there, we just kept on going. Really within the last few years, the program has gained momentum and we thought if we’re the only place that’s currently doing it in the GTA, maybe it is something we should let the people know the option exists and it is available here.”

Mr. Bryan is only too happy to share his success story with the community in the hopes of not only building awareness for Southlake’s cardiac program but also in dispelling some of the fears cardiac patients might experience.

“Not only was it possible for me to have the surgery nearby, but an even better surgery nearby was a big relief,” he says, noting the stress having surgery far away from home can have on patients, their families and loved ones. “It makes the whole ordeal of having to deal with the surgery that much easier, knowing it is somewhere nearby, somewhere you have been to.”

Mr. Bryan had his surgery at 8 a.m. on a Thursday and was out of the hospital by 11 a.m. on a Monday. 

“Every day I was in the hospital there was a huge noticeable improvement over the previous day,” he says.

Adds Dr. Teng: “Patients are always concerned about recovery. A faster recovery is important to them and they are concerned about the cosmetic results of the surgery, primarily because they have to live with this scar for the rest of their lives and if we can minimize that for them in any way and minimize the impact, I think it lessens the trauma of surgery in general, both physical and emotional. Being able to offer that minimally invasive surgery means the patients kind of feel a little bit more at ease about what the long-term consequences of the surgery might be.”



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