Doctors replaced the pig valve Helms had inserted 10 years ago with a tissue value, in a procedure called Redo Mitral Valve Replacement. They also repaired another valve in a procedure called Tricuspid Annuloplasty.
Helms' surgery took place on April 25.Dr. Kevin Landolfo, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Duke Medical Center, said most patients are off the ventilator within 24 to 48 hours after surgery.
"The longer someone spends in the ICU, the more concerned you are," he said.
Surgeons knew that this surgery would be more difficult and riskier than Helms' first heart surgery in 1992.
"Any re-operative surgery in the body is more difficult than the first time around," Landolfo said.
Helms' surgeons say there is no sign of stroke, but there are many other complications that can lead to a longer stay in the ICU.
Landolfo said the heart can be weakened during surgery.
"That would require constant monitoring drugs, fluids, to keep the heart working as efficiently as possible. That requires special monitoring that can only be done in the ICU," he said.
Injuries to other organs can also occur, particularly the lungs and kidneys.
While Helms' doctors remain optimistic, the surgeons and nurses WRAL spoke with agree that the extended stay in the ICU means Helms is not out of the woods just yet.
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