How a Minimally Invasive Procedure Allowed a Basketball Coach to Get Back to the Court

Former NBA player makes fast recovery after minimally invasive heart surgery

Richard Almstedt, a former NBA player who once traveled the world playing basketball and now serves as department chair for Kinesiology and Dance at Lone Star College, has a lifetime of athleticism and interesting stories under his belt. Spending his life playing, coaching or teaching sports, Rich never let his heart murmur detract from his active lifestyle.

That is, until his minor prolapsed mitral valve condition progressed since first diagnosed 20 years ago and his condition began inhibiting his daily life when it suddenly worsened.

“When he presented in the emergency room with an arrhythmia and fluid on the lungs, we stabilized him and determined surgical intervention was needed. Dr. Kenneth Liao is a fantastic and incredibly experienced surgeon in diverse procedures, but particularly with mitral valves,” said Zachary Gray, physician assistant.

Dr. Kenneth Liao, Chief, Section of Cardiothoracic Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Transplantation and Circulatory Support at Baylor College of Medicine, repaired the valve with a minimally invasive procedure, avoiding an entire replacement with a synthetic valve.

Rich credits the Baylor St. Luke’s team of experienced cardiologists, surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, and many others for the success of his procedure and improved health.

“I know I’m at the right place when I’m at Baylor St. Luke’s and I just can’t say enough good things about the hospital,” said Rich. “I knew Dr. Liao was phenomenal, always going above and beyond. I spent time playing basketball in China, where he’s from, so it was fun to exchange stories.”

Rich recovered quickly after the procedure, determined to reach his goals of walking miles again without pausing.

 “I’m back to working out, scuba diving and doing the things I love. I thought I never might get back to those things,” said Rich.

St. Luke’s Health uses the latest surgical tools and techniques to provide high-quality cardiovascular and thoracic care to patients from all around the world. Our team of endovascular experts includes internationally recognized cardiovascular interventionalists and cardiac surgeons who continue to redefine the standard of care for patients worldwide.

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