Triple Heart Valve Replacement Saves Local Women’s Life at Portneuf Medical Center: Woman Gets a Second Chance at Life After Taking Fen-Phen

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Cindy Cartwright took Fen-Phen 23 years ago to help her lose weight after the birth of her last child. At just 51, this mother of five underwent a rare triple heart valve replacement surgery as her heart valves were so severely damaged because of the diet drug.

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LHP Hospital Group, Inc. (LHP)

I’m kind of mad that I took it at the time but losing weight was important to me. But I didn’t take it for long and not ever again

Pocatello resident Cindy Cartwright knows first hand the damage a popular prescription diet drug sold in the '90s can have on your heart. Fen-Phen is perhaps one of the most recognized weight loss drugs. It's an anti-obesity drug that was pulled off the market because of the effect it had on the hearts of those who took the medication. Since the drug was pulled, heart surgeries have been performed on many of those who had taken the drug to control their weight.

Cartwright’s heart surgeon, Dr. Jacob DeLaRosa says his patient was otherwise in good health, but her heart valves were damaged in a way that is characteristic of Fen-Phen users. “Once you’ve been on Fen-Phen, and you have a complication in the heart, the valve leaflets are affected. Usually we can repair heart valves, but her valves were so damaged, secondary to Fen-Phen, they needed to be replaced,” says DeLaRosa.

Cindy Cartwright took Fen-Phen 23 years ago to help her lose weight after the birth of her last child. While she regrets that decision now, Fen-Phen was considered safe at the time. Cartwright says she only took the drug for 6 months and is amazed at the effect it had on her heart. “I’m kind of mad that I took it at the time but losing weight was important to me. But I didn’t take it for long and not ever again,” said Cartwright. However, as Dr. DeLaRosa points out, “Even 20 years later it can still affect you. You need to come in, and you need to be evaluated.”

Cartwright first noticed something was wrong with her heart over a year and a half ago. She exercised, yet would become easily winded and had difficulty catching her breath. Cartwright says her primary care physician referred her to Portneuf Medical Center cardiologist, Dr. Fernando Grigera, who performed numerous tests and together with Dr. DeLaRosa, identified the problem. Grateful for a second chance at life and for a full recovery, Cartwright praised the skill and knowledge of her physicians at Portneuf Medical Center

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