William Sanders, cardiothoracic surgery patient

December 01, 2012
William Sanders, Patient

When William Sanders felt short of breath while climbing a flight of stairs, he knew something was wrong. Despite his advanced age of 75, he was incredibly active. In fact, William was known to exercise five or six times a week. Gradually, his fitness level started to decline. He couldn’t perform his usual workouts and was even having trouble with basic activities, including stair climbing.

After checking in to a local hospital, William was told they needed to transfer him to UC Irvine Medical Center for more advanced care. As Orange County’s only university hospital, UC Irvine Medical Center treats the most complex cases in the region.

William was diagnosed with aortic stenosis as well as idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis, meaning his heart muscle would collapse when it pumped, trapping blood behind the muscle. He also had coronary artery disease and chronic atrial fibrillation, a condition where the electrical wiring of the heart goes a little haywire resulting in irregular heartbeats and an increased risk of stroke. In addition to having to undergo double bypass surgery, William’s condition also required mitral valve repair and surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation. With the complexity of William’s condition, it became clear that he needed to be transferred to a center that could provide a higher level of care.

“We were told that Dr. Jeffrey Milliken at UC Irvine was the best heart surgeon in the area,” says William.

As the lead for the UCI Health cardiothoracic surgery services and co-medical director of the Cardiovascular Center, Milliken has extensive experience handling all aspects of adult cardiac surgery, including complicated primary and reoperative coronary artery and valve surgeries. He is also repeatedly listed in “The Best Doctors in America,” various “Who’s Who” listings and the “Guide to America’s Top Surgeons.”

Milliken and other members of his cardiothoracic surgery team, Dr. Marvin Kirsh and Dr. Amir Abolhoda, performed a two-vessel coronary bypass, replaced William’s aortic valve and removed his hypertrophic aortic stenosis. During the four-hour procedure, the cardiothoracic surgeons also repaired his mitral valve and surgically treated his atrial fibrillation.

“You don’t want to take any chances when you’re my age,” says William. “Dr. Milliken was the best, so I knew UC Irvine was the right place. I had the surgery in April of 2008 and now I’m able to breathe a little easier and exercise again.”

Milliken agrees William was a complicated patient in terms of the procedures required to treat his conditions. “What he had was very unusual,” says Milliken. “We are very grateful to have the capability to care for challenging patients like Mr. Sanders.”