Home Radiation New York man’s heart turns to ‘concrete’ after radiation

New York man’s heart turns to ‘concrete’ after radiation


STATEN ISLAND, NY (WPIX) – Radiation therapy saved Robert Dorso’s life 20 years ago, but recently surfaced side effects nearly killed him after his heart became encased in a bony shell that the doctors have equated to the “concrete”.

After two operations last year, he is healthy again.

“They were friendly,” Dorso said of the medical team who treated him. “They were patient and they saved my life.”

Dorso received radiation two decades ago during his treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is what killed his 23-year-old identical twin brother. Dorso was diagnosed at 39 when radiation therapy was the peak treatment. Twenty years later, the lining around his heart began to harden.

Dr. Mohammed Imam, chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Staten Island University Hospital, said that usually this sac, or membrane surrounding the heart, is like skin.

“It was replaced by this very hard plaster shell,” he said. “Literally, it’s concrete. It’s like bones.

Dorso, an active man, gained 70 pounds of excess fluid in his heart, lungs and legs.

Doctors had to perform a sequence of two surgeries to reduce any risk and ultimately save him.

“Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement or TAVR, which is a minimally invasive catheter-based therapy where we were able to replace his aortic valve through his legs, which was able to get him out of heart failure and much better optimized for the second phase of the procedure,” said Dr. Gregory Maniatis, director of Structural Heart Disease.

The second surgery took place a few months later, during which Imam cut open Dorso’s chest to peel off that “concrete” liner.

Dorso was reunited with his medical team, which included Maniatis and nurse practitioner Blerta Saipi, at Staten Island University Hospital on Thursday.

Dorso and his wife Lisa are grateful for the result.

“You have given us back our golden age,” Dorso’s wife told the team. “We have a future ahead of us.”

Dorso feels like himself again and has looked to his late brother for motivation.

“He had such grace, he had such dignity, he had such strength,” Dorso said through tears. “I hope I did him justice, but I miss him every day, but he was an inspiration.”

Dorso’s recovery continues on track. His hospital check-ups have become much less frequent and he and his wife walk five miles every morning.