Let's see, where was I? Oh yes, the echocardiogram results of a PFO back in June. After consulting with a cardiac surgeon last week (the head of the department, I might add) it was determined that I could skip the lengthy and involved approval process for PFO closure because of my CF and hypoxia (low oxygen levels). Skip to the head of the class. The only drawback being that I would need one or possibly two additional medical procedures prior to being able to have the PFO repaired.
Medical test number one: TEE or trans-esophageal echocardiogram. Basically the same test I had back in June, but a bit more detailed than the previous echocardiogram. For this one they need to do the ultrasound from within your esophagus, which gives a much better picture of the heart structures. Sedation is used as most people tend to not enjoy having an ultrasound scope inserted down their throat, and because of my history of CF I'd need to have general anesthesia in case of the need for a quick intubation. They'd give me light anesthesia so I'd still be breathing on my own, but were ready to step in should there be any difficulties. Ready, set, probe!
The test was actually quite simple, I had a nice sleep and woke up feeling not too much worse for the wear, only a slight sore throat and fuzzy feeling in my head. I actually found it easier to recover from than the sedation they usually use for such procedures. The results came in yesterday and indeed, it is a PFO with a trace amount of blood shunting from one atrium to the other. Next stop: cardiac cath/pulmonary lab to verify how much of a shunt there is on exercise to see if that is the cause for my hypoxia. If it is, then the PFO will be closed. If not, they won't fix it and we'll need to do a bit more medical detective work.
Apparently the Level III Baird test is so popular there is a 3 month wait time to have it done. A date should be confirmed today and I'll be put on the waiting list in case there are any cancellations. Part of me wants to have it over with and the other part would like to put this off as long as possible.
Cardiac catheterization is a procedure where a small incision is made either in the groin or above another large vein and a catheter introduced up and into the right side of the heart. During the level III baird test, not only is there a cardiac catheterization, but also arterial monitoring of the blood to detect oxygen levels, usually done in the radial (wrist) artery. Neither of these aspects of the test sound like much fun to me, but the icing on the cake is that the patient is required to exercise while all this is going on. I would like to wish the physician and other staff the best of luck in advance for this one.
After the results are in from that I'll have a much better idea of the plan. If there is significant shunting from the right to left atrium causing less blood to pass through the lungs then they will go for the repair. There's a part of me that is wondering if all this is worth it. Using the oxygen isn't that bad... sure, it's inconvenient but I'm much more used to the odd looks people give me. Is it really worth going through all these unpleasant tests without a guarantee that this is the cause of my low oxygen saturation? I suppose it is, but I can't pretend I won't be disappointed if the level III baird doesn't yield some helpful information. Being poked, prodded and probed has to have some benefit, doesn't it?