Matthew’s Story: Treating a Congenital Heart Defect

Matthew lives in the Michigan woods, 300 miles from Chicago. Just in his 20s, he loves bow hunting and dreams of going back to college and working overseas. He also was born with a heart defect, a hole in his heart that kept him out of the military after high school — dashing one long-held dream.

Matthew received a frightening reminder that the defect could keep him from achieving other goals when he developed endocarditis, a serious heart infection that landed him in the hospital. It was so serious that he needed intravenous antibiotics for six weeks. Doctors told him a future infection could be deadly.

Matthew’s defect, a hole between the two lower pumping chambers of the heart, is known as a muscular ventricular septal defect. To correct the problem, his doctor in Michigan recommended Ziyad M. Hijazi, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center and an internationally recognized pioneer in the nonsurgical repair of heart defects.

People like Matthew who have holes in their hearts are predisposed to long-term health complications, such as endocarditis, Hijazi says, which makes closing the holes the best option for some people.

Open-heart surgery was an option. But surgery would have involved cutting the breast bone in half, spreading it apart, putting the patient on a bypass machine and stopping the heart — a process not without risk. “Also, the location of the heart defect would have made it very difficult to reach without cutting through the muscle of the heart,” Hijazi says. “Obviously, that’s a big deal.” Continue reading