How to Fix a Hole in the Heart - Omaha, Nebraska - CHI Health

How to Fix a Hole in the Heart

Article Date: Mar 20, 2013

Like most families, the Gudenraths enjoy spending time together. The only difference is that dad, Mike Gudenrath, just hasn't had the energy to do it.

"It would start on the way home from work," he explains. "I would just be dragging. I didn't want to do anything."

Once Mike hit the house, it was lights out. He would often fall asleep for the night within an hour of arriving home. This went on for years, until a health scare helped unravel the mystery.

"These little episodes would start where I would just be sitting and my heart would start beating really hard," he recalls. "You could almost see my chest jumping. Then I would get really clammy, hot and sweaty. It would last about 10-15 minutes and then go away."

A trip to the Alegent Creighton Health Lakeside Hospital emergency department ruled out what Mike feared most: a heart attack. But he wasn't out of the woods; a series of tests would prove even more frightening.

"I remember when the doctor came out and said he has at least one hole," Mike's wife Janis says. "I said, are you sure you have the right patient?"

Turns out, Mike had three holes in his heart. One measured 28 millimeters, which is larger than a quarter.

Alegent Health Clinic Interventional Cardiologist Himanshu Agarwal.These holes are usually detected in children. But at 48 years old, the fix for Mike would be anything but routine. A friend recommended Alegent Creighton Clinic Interventional Cardiologist Himanshu Agarwal.

"What I told him is, 'let's try to fix this without open heart surgery'," Dr. Agarwal says.

The Alegent Creighton Clinic Heart & Vascular Specialists pride themselves in taking complex, high-risk cases and providing care few can. So on June 10, 2011, Dr. Agarwal set out to plug the holes in Mike's heart by inserting two large devices through a tiny hole in his groin.

We use a sizing balloon and go up inside the hole," he explains. "Then we blow up the balloon with saline to see how big the holes are because we have different device sizes. Then we come up with the device to close the hole shut."

The device is permanent so it has to fit just right. Dr. Agarwal describes it as similar to a stopper with two rims that plugs the hole. And unlike open heart surgery, patients like Mike can go home the next day - already feeling like a million bucks.

"It's just nice that he's not always sleeping," Janis says. "He asked my daughter and I to go shopping the other night. That's really not like him, so it's been nice."

And it's all thanks to Dr. Agarwal and his team.

Reader Comments
Posted: Mar 1 2012 8:02 AM CST by Matt McCahill

Thank you again Dr. Agarwal and everyone at Bergan. You are truely life changers!

Posted: Mar 22 2012 6:29 AM CST by Matt McCahill

Just curious, what does a device like this cost? I have an ASD and at one time was in a trial for "angel wings" but missed the cut off by 2%. I hear that closing this helps with Migraines too;so I was curious as to the cost. Also what type of workup other than a bubble contrast echo need be done? thanks

Posted: Apr 2 2012 4:48 PM CST by Matt McCahill

Hi Brenda.
I am not sure about the exact cost of procedure or the device. Usually insurance companies cover the cost for ASD.

I have a Migraine PFO trial ongoing. The cost and entire work up would be free if you qualify for the trial . You can call my Research nurse, Sharon Whitman at 402-343-8511 to see if you qualify

Posted: Feb 26 2014 6:35 PM CST by Matt McCahill

what is the name of the device used to close the hole?

Posted: Mar 5 2014 11:40 AM CST by Matt McCahill


It's called as "Amplatzer Septal Occluder."

Posted: Mar 28 2014 3:35 PM CST by Matt McCahill

If someone knows they have a hole in their heart (diagnosed 14 years ago), is this procedure something to consider now (age 59) ?
Would attending the Heart Health Fair on May 17, be of benefit?
Thank You!

Posted: Mar 31 2014 3:47 PM CST by Matt McCahill


Age is not a limiting factor for closing the hole, if closing is needed. I would be happy to see you in the office and discuss various options.

You can reach me at 402-398-5880.

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Related Links
Dr. Himanshu Agarwal

Alegent Creighton Clinic Heart & Vascular Specialists

Alegent Creighton Health Heart and Vascular Institute