(CBS 5) — Doctors say more heavy diabetic patients are having painful complications after heart surgery. But there is a new way to repair the damage.
One year after valve replacement surgery 49-year-old Mike Lucio’s chest is in bad shape. His sternum, or breast plate, has literally come apart, leaving him in pain.
“I was feeling even worse and worse,” Lucio said. “They found out that all the wires broke loose and even a fractured rib is poking my chest.”
“We’re operating on people that are more obese today than ever before,” explained Dr. Seenu Reddy, a University of Texas Health Science Center thoracic surgeon. “We’re operating on people who have diabetes that’s more poorly controlled. All these come together as a force and act to create a situation where that sternal healing is going to be impaired.”
Reddy uses a new technique to literally reconstruct Lucio’s sternum. In a procedure that takes several hours, the operating team first removes all of the bone fragments and pieces of wire in the chest.
Then, taking careful measurements, the surgeon begins the process of rebuilding. The centerpiece is a device called the Sternal Talon, a flat titanium implant. The “talons” are clamps that grab both sides of the sternum to hold them together permanently.
“They kind of act like a snowshoe,” Reddy explained. Instead of wire, where all the force is on this very thin piece of wire, the force of the sternum, the Talon clamp distributes that force over a much broader surface.”
Patients like Lucio experience relief from pain, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.
Reddy has performed about a dozen sternum reconstruction surgeries over the past year.
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