For those who undergo traditional open heart surgery, recovery can mean a minimum three-month healing process. For 88-year-old Austin Carroll, traditional surgery also posed safety concerns. Following his doctor’s advice, he recently underwent a new cardiac procedure, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR, for short), now available at Morton Plant Hospital.
It is described as a safer, easier surgical alternative for candidates where traditional open aortic valve replacement may not be the best option. It is also a procedure that promises to have Carroll up and about in two to four weeks.
“I’m already driving again and have been out to lunch a couple of times and to visit with a group that I belong to,” says the Dunedin grandfather and great-grandfather just seven days following completion of the TAVR procedure. “It’s remarkable.”
High Risk Patients Benefit from TAVR
The TAVR procedure provides an alternative for high-risk patients as a means to enable a collapsible aortic heart valve to be implanted by entering the femoral artery of the thigh using a catheter-based delivery system. Although general anesthesia is used, patients are not faced with undergoing cardiopulmonary bypass or a large chest incision. This procedure can be particularly ideal for patients diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis, a progressive disease impacting as many as 1.5 million people in the U.S.
Of these patients, over 15% may suffer debilitating symptoms, such as severe shortness of breath, rapid or irregular heartbeat, chest pain or tightness, extreme fatigue or lightheadedness, and these symptoms can make basic exercise or even normal activities like walking or climbing stairs nearly impossible. In later stages of the condition, the valve does not properly open or close, forcing the heart to work harder to push blood through the calcified aortic valve which ultimately weakens the heart’s muscles and increases patient risk for heart failure.
New Procedure Offers Hope
Many of these patients do not undergo standard aortic valve surgery because they have been declared inoperable or symptoms have worsened to prevent them from undergoing the operation. Dr. Joshua Rovin, a cardiothoracic surgeon and member of the Morton Plant Valve Clinic team, notes that this new alternative offers hope.
“The TAVR procedure is a breakthrough in the treatment of patients with severe aortic stenosis,” he says “It brings a treatment option to patients where one previously did not exist.”
New Valve Clinic First in the Region
A comprehensive, board-certified, multi-disciplinary team of diagnostic and interventional cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and medical staff at the Clearwater hospital’s recently launched Valve Clinic performed its first two TAVR procedures in early February 2012 inside its new state-of-the-art hybrid operative suites. The clinic can provide specialized treatment of complex heart valve disorders like aortic stenosis and is believed to be the first of its kind in the region to offer this collaborative approach.
“We utilize a share care philosophy which means the Valve Clinic team works closely with a patient’s personal physician in the clinical decision-making and treatment of patients,” says Dr. John Ofenloch, a cardiothoracic surgeon and physician member of the hospital’s Valve Clinic team. “The share care approach helps ensure a smooth transition for the patient back to their personal physician after their visit and treatment at the Valve Clinic.”
Post-Op Follow-up Reassures Patients
As with other cardiac patients at Morton Plant Hospital, patients undergoing the TAVR procedure will receive a call from the cardiac team 30 days post-surgery as part of the hospital’s cardiac call-back program. The purpose of the call is to check on their status and to answer questions.
Though the TAVR procedure is still relatively new for the hospital, while Austin Carroll continues to recover, he insists it is a decision that he’s glad he made and says he would recommend it to others.
“You can expect a simple recovery, and all of the people there are so focused on taking all of the right tests and making sure that they know exactly what they’re doing,” he says. “They’re a good team.”
To learn more about the new TAVR cardiac procedure, contact the Valve Clinic at Morton Plant Hospital at 855-448-2583 or visit www.mpmhealth.com/valveclinic.
Article written for Destination Tampa Bay magazine
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