Coordinated Care Saves Life of South Amboy Man After Dangerous Heart Condition

Tony Soto recovered after aortic dissection

August 08, 2022

In spring 2022, Tony Soto, 53, started feeling crummy. Heartburn hit the South Amboy, New Jersey, man so hard that he couldn’t even lie down. “I slept upright in a beach chair all week,” he says. Finally, the burn got so bad that he drove himself to JFK University Medical Center.
 
Doctors at JFK gave Tony the full workup, including an EKG, X-rays and a CAT scan. He received somber news: He had an aortic dissection, a tear in the major artery that carries blood out of the heart. “Blood can tear in between the layers of the vessel wall, and this can cause decreased blood flow to the major organs or cause acute rupture or bleeding,” says Deepak Singh, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at Jersey Shore University Medical Center who oversaw Tony’s care. “This condition is universally fatal if not treated.”
  
Tony was told that he’d need surgery. “I asked if I need to make an appointment and was told, ‘No, this needs to happen right now.’”

No Time to Waste 

Advanced cardiac procedures are performed at hospitals with comprehensive cardiac programs to treat the most complex heart conditions—and experts from Hackensack University Medical Center and Jersey Shore see patients at JFK for comprehensive evaluation and treatment planning, all in coordination with their local physicians. So after being seen at JFK, Tony was taken by ambulance to the intensive care unit of Jersey Shore. As the team was being assembled, Dr. Singh met Tony and explained the serious nature of the surgery. “This is a significant procedure that carries a high mortality rate, so I told him it was important that he see his wife and daughter before he went into the operating room,” Dr. Singh says.

Experts from Hackensack University Medical Center and Jersey Shore University Medical Center now see patients at JFK for comprehensive evaluation and treatment planning, all in coordination with their local physicians.
 
Adds Tony: “Everything happened so fast, and I can remember my wife crying, telling me I have to come back, and that my sister was on the phone praying for me. The next thing I knew, they were wheeling me down the hall.”
 
Dr. Singh and the team worked quickly and carefully. “We were able to repair the aortic valve as well as replace all the vessels at the base of his neck that supply blood to both sides of his brain and both arms,” Dr. Singh says. The team used an innovative technique called deep hypothermic circulatory arrest, or cold circulatory arrest, to repair some of the vessels.
 
“When the brain is deprived of blood, brain damage happens within 3–4 minutes at a normal body temperature,” Dr. Singh explains. The brain can survive for much longer if the body is cooled to below 64 degrees. “With cold circulatory arrest, we can stop all blood flow to the entire body, protecting the brain while giving us a bloodless field. We have about 40 minutes to repair the vessels and reestablish blood flow, so we have to work very efficiently,” he says.
 

A Quicker Recovery

Following the eight-hour surgery, Tony spent five days in the hospital before being discharged home. “Typically, patients stay at least nine or 10 days,” says Dr. Singh. But Tony healed well and quickly because of the team’s excellent technique. 

“Tony shouldn’t have any problems in the future,” Dr. Singh says. “He’ll have one or two more CAT scans, then he’ll be good to go for the rest of his life.”
 
Adds Tony: “I am so thankful for everyone for not giving up on me and saving my life.”

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.
 
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