Advancements in local anesthesia helping heart surgery patients

Heart issues, like AFib, impact many people, but now a medical breakthrough with a common medical procedure is making news locally.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 5:31 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Heart issues, like AFib, impact many people, but now a medical breakthrough with a common medical procedure is making news locally. People receiving the heart procedure can have a more comfortable experience and be home the same day thanks to local anesthesia.

Like many his age, 78-year-old Tony Odierna of Longmeadow had to undergo a heart tune-up.  A plug was recently put in the pocket of his heart where blood clots can form.

“I went to my PCP for my physical and he detected AFib and I had an irregular heartbeat over the years and now nothing major and finally, he said ‘It’s time to treat the AFib,’” Odierna said.

That may sound like a heavy surgery, but he said it was easy and was in-and-out of the hospital the same day.

“Now, the advantages are I’m no longer on blood thinners, which can be expensive, even with insurance coverage. I don’t have to worry about internal bleeding and I no longer have five times the chance for stroke compared to a normal person. I’m back to being that normal person,” Odierna added.

Cardiologist Andrew Goldsweig performed the procedure. He credited advancements like local anesthesia or numbing medication.

“When you go to the dentist and you get a little bit of nonvaccine, that’s local anesthesia,” Goldsweig said.

Baystate Health is the first and only hospital in western Massachusetts to offer this option for procedures like that one. Goldsweig explained to Western Mass News that it saves patients the discomfort, risk, and recovery that comes with general anesthesia.

“People have no memory of the events, but people aren’t able to breathe on their own. They require a breathing tube and a machine to do the breathing for them. They get paralytic medication, so they can’t move any of their muscles, even their diaphragm,” Goldsweig added.

Now, the practice is more common at the hospital.

“We’ve done more than 50 of these left atrial appendage procedures for atrial fibrillation. Using local anesthesia, and the introcaridac echocardiography, the very tiny image catheter that can go through a vein,” Goldsweig noted.

However, with Odierna being the first, we asked him if he was nervous.

“I ran it by several cardiologists, second, third opinions, and Dr. Goldsweig had performed this procedure years before in another place,” Odierna explained. “I felt so confident after I got all my answers and then we just went ahead with it.”

Odierna told us he is now increasing his physical activity and thinks he is doing well for his age.