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Breakthrough Procedure for Heart Valve Surgery: January 17, 2012

The recognized name is transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. Prospective patients will soon know it as a life-saving, life-altering procedure.

“These are patients who don’t have really many other options. We know that for patients, when they become critical with aortic stenosis and they become severely symptomatic, their survival rate is very poor,” says Dr. Lee Lucas, Clinical Research Coordinator for Surgical Services at HealthPark Medical Center.

Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve becomes calcified to the point the flaps can hardly open and pump blood. Fifty percent of patients with severe cases die in two years and by four years the death rate is eighty percent. These patients are too sick to undergo an open-heart valve replacement.

“The standard operation was to open somebody’s chest through the sternum or occasionally through the right chest and put them on the heart lung machine, stop their heart, open the aorta, cut out the valve, sew a new valve in, close up, and take them off the heart lung machine,” says Dr. Brian Hummel, a cardiothoracic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

The new TAVR procedure allows doctors to insert a new valve by threading a catheter from an artery in the groin all the way to the heart. It’s building on the already common stent procedure.

“This allows us to deliver and place the valve without stopping the patient’s heart,” says Dr. Hummel.

Approved for commercial use in November, Lee Memorial Health System is the first non-clinical site in the sate to offer this breakthrough procedure.

“These critically ill patients, the kind that we’re doing currently, they notice a difference immediately. They wake up, their breathing is better their sense of well-being is better and so that’s really been gratifying,” says Dr. Hummel.

This next generation procedure is helping preserve not only life but quality of life as well.

“This is an amazing time for our community and for our hospital and for all the patients that we have right now with aortic stenosis,” says Dr. Lucas.