More than 5 million Americans die of heart valve disease every year. Until recently, when a heart valve replacement was needed, the only choice doctors had was an invasive, chest-cracking surgery that required six months of recovery. However, the Food and Drug Administration approved a procedure for patients who were at greater risk of complications from an open-heart surgery.
The transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) allows the TAVR team, consisting of a cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon, to replace a damaged or clogged heart valve without opening the patient’s chest. Instead, the procedure is performed via a catheter inserted through the femoral artery or groin. TAVR is performed with limited anesthesia, and patients are generally up and moving the same day.
To qualify for the procedure, patients go through an extensive cardiac workup that reveals if a valve replacement is necessary. At least two cardiac thoracic surgeons must agree that the patient is at too high a risk for traditional surgery.
“Procedures like this are designed to help improve quality of life, with a less-invasive process that helps you get back to doing what you love to do,” said Kettering Health Network Heart & Vascular manager Dawn Corbin, MHA, MSN, RN, CCRP. She oversees cardiac wellness and rehabilitation at the hybrid cath lab where TAVRs are performed.
Kettering Health Network Heart & Vascular has offered this procedure for about four years, performing it on nearly 350 patients.
“Many of our TAVR patients are in their 80s or older,” said Corbin.
There are some remarkable examples of seniors with lots of independence and life left to live who have come through the clinic. One such patient was Ruth Mahone, who was 89 when she had the TAVR procedure performed four years ago.
“I went in for a regular checkup, and there was a blockage I didn’t know about that showed up on the test,” Ruth said. “They said I might only live another six months to two years if I didn’t do something about it. The doctor said I was a candidate for this new type of procedure.”
Once the blockage was discovered, there was a sense of urgency to getting Ruth treated right away. “One doctor checked me out and was very encouraging,” she explained. “That was on a Wednesday or Thursday, and they scheduled the procedure on Monday. I was home by the next Wednesday.”
People have asked Ruth if she was afraid of having a procedure that was so new, and she said she wasn’t. Before the procedure, she was very active and is as much now. The doctors were confident and encouraging and explained everything, so she felt comfortable with their judgment.
“I trusted the doctors,” she said. “I had two cardiologists, an imaging cardiologist and two cardiothoracic surgeons around me when this was done. Specialists were standing by in case of any issues, but all went very well.”
After the procedure, Ruth went back to her everyday life -- managing her home and gardening. “I still work in my garden and take care of my house by myself, but I don’t do my own yardwork anymore.”
“I didn’t even know I had this problem and probably wouldn’t have until it blew up,” she said.
To schedule your own heart screening or to learn more about the TAVR procedure, visit the Kettering Health Network Heart and Vascular webpage or call (937) 395-6023.