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Extremely Rare Heart Surgery Saves Cat

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Vanilla Bean was saved with a rare heart surgery that involved veterinarians collaborating with human physicians.

Vanilla Bean, a 1-year-old female Burmese cat from Mill Valley, California, was diagnosed by her veterinarian with a rare congenital heart defect that does not allow blood to flow properly through the chambers. This improper flow can cause too much blood to collect in one chamber, create pressure and enlarge it. Thankfully for Vanilla Bean, her veterinarian referred her to the VMTH's Cardiology Service, where Dr. Josh Stern was familiar with the condition, and the rare life-saving procedure to correct it.

Once at UC Davis, Dr. Stern and his team of residents, technicians and veterinary students evaluated Vanilla Bean by performing an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) to assess the severity of her heart disease and to see if she was a good candidate for surgery. 

Vanilla Bean’s condition, known as a cor triatriatum sinister, and is found in children as well as cats. In his two previous surgeries to correct the condition, Dr. Stern collaborated with human cardiologists from Duke University, near where he was practicing at North Carolina State University. To help assist him now that he’s at UC Davis, Dr. Stern sought out two cardiologists from the UC Davis Medical Center.

Together, the team of doctors began the delicate procedure of correcting Vanilla Bean’s defect, which involved opening her chest cavity to expose the heart and utilize a hybrid cutting balloon dilatation. The balloon cuts the restricting membrane between the chambers to allow blood to flow through it regularly. The surgery was a success, and Vanilla Bean slowly recovered. She is no longer in congestive heart failure, and is off all medications.

About the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis—a unit of the School of Veterinary Medicine—provides state-of-the-art clinical care while serving as the primary clinical teaching experience for DVM students and post graduate veterinarian residents. The VMTH treats more than 47,000 animals a year, ranging from cats and dogs to horses, cows and exotic species. To learn more about the VMTH, please go to Timely news updates can be received on its Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages.

Rob Warren
VMTH Communications & Marketing Officer