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Patriots Star Faces Heart Surgery

Patriots Star Faces Heart SurgeryTuftsexperts react to news that the cause of New England Patriots ProBowler Tedy Bruschi's stroke in February may have been a holein his heart.Boston

Boston [03.29.05] Just weeks after winning his third Super Bowl in fouryears, New England Patriotsstar linebacker and fan favorite Tedy Bruschi suffered a minorstroke. Although the 31-year-old athlete appeared to be in peakphysical condition, medical experts speculated that a previouslyundetected birth defect in his heart may have been the culprit.If so, say Tufts experts, Bruschi should be able to make a fullrecovery and rejoin his team on the field.

"It'sa very common explanation for why young people have strokes,"Dr. David Thaler, assistant professor of neurology at Tufts Schoolof Medicine and director of the TuftsComprehensive Stroke Center at Tufts-New England Medical Center(Tufts-NEMC), told The Boston Globe.

Medical expertsbelieve that Bruschi's heart may have a birth defect called apatent foramen ovale, which the Globe described as a small holebetween the two upper chambers of the heart.

Dr. CareyKimmelstiel, associate professor of medicine at Tufts and directorof the CardiacCatheterization Laboratory and interventional cardiology andclinical cardiology at Tufts-NEMC, says that Bruschi’s conditionisn’t unusual.

"In manycases they are just 'potential' holes, or weakening in the wallsof the heart,'' Kimmelstiel told the Boston Herald. "Theycan be very common.''

But whilethis condition may be relatively common, it is also difficultto detect.

"On aphysical exam, you'll never find it," he told the Globe."And why would you? It's not going to lead to a murmur, it'snot anything you're going to hear."

Thaler speculatesthat the condition could have finally resulted in the stroke threedays following the Pro Bowl due to the long plane ride from Hawaiito Boston. The most common way in which the condition manifestsitself is when a blood clot finds its way through the hole andto the brain.

"If you'resitting in an airplane from Hawaii to Boston, the blood is justsitting there," the Tufts stroke expert told the Globe."We make these little blood clots all the time, and usuallythey're of no consequence."

Kimmelstielis helping coordinate clinical trials at Tufts-NEMC for surgicallyrepairing heart defects such as Bruschi’s. The Heraldreported that the Tufts cardiologist had completed the procedureapproximately 40 times – including on a rodeocowboy who has since returned to his own rough-and-tumblecareer.

"Hopefully,we'll be able to alleviate the threat of stroke,'' the Tufts cardiologisttold the Herald.

If this diagnosisis accurate, Thaler is optimistic about the chances of Bruschireturning to the defending Super Bowl champions' defensive line.

"If [Bruschi's]nervous system is functioning normally and the cause of his eventwas thought to be patent foramen ovale and if that gets closed,then he should be able to return to a normal life, vigorous andviolent as he likes," Thaler told the Globe.














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