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Hopkins Pulse - Arrive for Papilloma Removal, Leave with Cardiac Bypass

Hopkins Pulse Summer 2014

Arrive for Papilloma Removal, Leave with Cardiac Bypass

Date: June 23, 2014

Johns Hopkins doctors discover blockages in patient treated for vocal papillomas.


Cardiac surgeon Christopher Sciortino
Cardiac surgeon Christopher Sciortino

When 64-year-old Jerry Pena, the co-owner of an ornamental iron business, went to a local community hospital for treatment of vocal papillomas by Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist Lee Akst, he was expecting to go home the same day. But as he was being prepared for the outpatient operation to remove the benign growths on his vocal cords, he began sweating and feeling dizzy and nauseous.

“The room quickly filled with people—they thought I was having a heart attack,” Pena says. He was admitted to the hospital for a range of tests. Although it wasn’t a heart attack, an abnormal stress test pointed to coronary artery disease, and he was transferred the following morning to The Johns Hopkins Hospital. There, cardiologist Jeffrey Brinker performed a cardiac catheterization and saw that Pena had three significant blockages in his left main and left anterior descending artery.

“I was told that because of the severity of my blockages, I needed bypass surgery,” Pena says. “I was surprised because I had no idea that I had heart disease. I never had chest pain.”

A change in plans

Two days after his symptoms started, with his family at his side, Pena was being prepared for a double cardiac bypass operation. Cardiac surgeon Christopher Sciortino says Pena was fortunate he had the symptoms in a medical setting and was diagnosed quickly.

“He had severe blockages,” says Sciortino, who performed the operation.

Pena made a very fast recovery, left the hospital five days after surgery and went back to his busy job within six weeks.

“I heard that walking was the best way to recover, and little by little, I increased the amount of walking every day,” he says.

Three months after the bypass surgery, feeling that he had “more energy than before the operation,” Pena finally got to keep his appointment to have his vocal papillomas removed.

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