Hoiberg Surgery is Common, Low-Risk, Says Cardiologist

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DES MOINES, Iowa --  We know everything worked out for the better, but it’s still hard to think back to 2005 when a frail Fred Hoiberg announced he had just had heart surgery and was retiring from the NBA.

“Playing really wasn’t important to me," he said through shortened breaths. "Seeing my kids was important.”

He might have a new career, but he’s still got the same pacemaker; and now, it’s time to replace it.  But doctors caution fans not to let the images of Hoiberg in 2005 creep back into their heads.

“The procedure is fairly simple," says Iowa Clinic cardiologist, Dr. James Lovell. "It involves making an incision and taking the existing pacemaker out of the space underneath the skin and testing the wires that are there to make sure that they’re working properly.

“Assuming that they are, they would plug in a new pacemaker generator or battery, put it back into the pocket underneath the skin and sew the incision shut and then monitor him for a period of several hours and assuming he was stable and doing well, he would be able to go home the same day.”

"Pacers," as they’re called, have come a long way since their practical introduction in the 1950s (when they were the size of a hockey puck).

Hoiberg’s is hardly much bigger than a matchbook.

“The system together helps to sense the heartbeat," Lovell explains, "and if it doesn’t have the adequate heartbeat, it puts one in.”

Pacer batteries typically last 7-10 years, but Hoiberg says his is now running on reserve power and causing him to feel light-headed.  He’ll head into the cath lab at the Mayo Clinic before dawn.

“It’s generally done fairly simply with some sedation and local anesthetic," Lovell says, "it’s not a general anesthetic.”

The Cyclone icon is expected to be recovered and feeling better by Tuesday evening—and worried Iowa State fans are, too.


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