Conquering and Surviving Aortic Stenosis

Aortic valve stenosis is one of the most common and serious heart problems, but many patients don’t experience noticeable symptoms until the amount of restricted blood flow becomes greatly reduced. For chiropractor John Dinofrio, the impact of aortic stenosis wasn’t felt until visiting Oaklawn for a horse race.

“I sat down on the bench there by the glass fireplace and Ken goes ‘Dr. D you alright, you alright?” he said. “I didn’t hear a word he said, and the next thing you know, I was waking up in the emergency room.”

While aortic stenosis typically affects older people as a result of scarring and calcium buildup in the valve cusp, Dinofrio’s affliction was caused by a congenital heart defect called a bicuspid aortic valve.

“It was quite clear he had to have something done in order to prolong his life and lead to a better quality of life,” said CHI St. Vincent cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Kenneth Howell.

As a holistic chiropractor, Dinofrio was apprehensive about open heart surgery and even sought second opinions from doctors in Cleveland and Houston. However, after experiencing another episode during a trip to his daughter’s house, Dinofrio knew it was time to wear the gown.

“That’s when we vented and did what we call a balloon Valvuloplasty,” said CHI St. Vincent interventional cardiologist Dr. Aravind Rao. “Basically we put a balloon across his valve — balloon the valve to improve the flow.”

With a team approach to heart care, Dr. Rao and Dr. Howell collaborated with other leading cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons from the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute every step of the way to determine the best treatment and recovery path for Dinofrio.

“We’re not in our own silos,” said Dr. Howell. “We’re all collaborating and learning things because we all have different training pathways. For us to collaborate and learn from each other is huge.”

Following open heart surgery, aortic valve replacement and bypass surgery, Dinofrio is now on the road to a complete recovery and looking forward to the next racing season at Oaklawn.