Two Freeman Health System Cardiologists Complete a Freeman Medical First in Heart Care

Successful Procedure First of its Kind

Two Freeman Health System cardiologists recently completed a successful surgical procedure on an 81-year-old Joplin resident’s heart — the first of its kind ever performed in Joplin.

Freeman patient Dolores Field had undergone open heart surgery five years earlier but had been suffering from shortness of breath.

“There are 139 steps from my apartment down to the elevator and, I was not able to make those 139 steps,” Field said. “I had to stop and take a breath. That bothered me. I would turn over in bed and I was panting like a puppy, so I knew there was something seriously wrong there. I just couldn’t live like this.”

After undergoing tests and consulting with Dr. Vigyan Bang, interventional cardiologist at Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute, the source of the problem was traced to a leaky mitral valve located between the upper left atrium and left ventricle.

Already a member of the “zipper club” — a common name for men and women who’ve undergone open heart surgery — Field didn’t want to have her chest cracked open for a second time. At a crossroads, Dr. Bang proposed a Freeman-first procedure called “valve-in-valve trans-catheter mitral valve replacement after electrocautery.” Rather than using the traditional route of opening Field’s chest to physically access the heart valve, repairs were done through a tiny hole in the patient’s leg.

“What convinced me is a comment Dr. Bang made that stuck with me,” Field said. “He said, ‘if you were my family member, I would encourage you to do this.’ And he looked me straight into the eye when he said it. So, I thought, ‘Fine, let’s do it.’ And that’s it.”

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes,” said Dr. Bang. “It’s not just about when I spend half an hour with the patient. It’s about collaborating with my colleagues about what the best approach might be.”

On January 19, Dr. Bang and Freeman cardiologist Dr. Ryan Longnecker completed the three-hour long operation. The two worked in tandem, side by side, with Dr. Bang manipulating the tools through the heart while Dr. Longnecker helped guide his hands by watching the echocardiogram on nearby monitors.

“You get multiple eyes on the same thing, you get multiple sets of hands doing the same thing,” Dr. Bang said. “That is unique about my partnership with Dr. Longnecker. We replace valves together. It’s a situation where the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. He was the eyes to my hands.”

Field was sitting up in a chair eight hours following surgery and was on her way home the next day.

“I thank God for this man,” she said, hugging Dr. Bang. Later, she did the same with Dr. Longnecker. “I’m incredibly thankful.”

“I’ve been in medicine for almost 30 years now and to watch patients go from needing a traditional sternotomy, being literally cut open like a turkey breast at Thanksgiving, and now being able to do this through a small hole in the leg and going up and doing a valve replacement from that, it has been an awesome experience,” Dr. Longnecker said. “It’s a really great feeling when you see someone the next day and they’re already thanking you for how much better they feel.”

About Freeman Health System

Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center — the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services — as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit


Kevin McClintock, Media Relations Coordinator
Freeman Health System

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