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Local Woman is Among First in Region to Benefit from TAVR
Breakthrough Procedure Now Available at St. Mary Medical Center

LANGHORNE, Pa., June 24, 2013 – When Vera Glick underwent open-heart surgery more than a decade ago to replace a poorly functioning mitral valve, she spent weeks recovering from the pain and surgical injury of the intensive procedure. Thankfully, Glick had a different less-invasive option when she developed trouble with her aortic heart valve in 2012. Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, is a breakthrough treatment for a heart-valve replacement for older patients with severe aortic stenosis.

Now 87, the Falls Township woman was one of the first in the Philadelphia area to undergo TAVR, a less-invasive surgical technique that was easier on her body and dramatically shortened her recovery time. Performed at St. Mary Medical Center in September 2012, Glick’s surgery was so successful that she was able to go home just four days later.

“I could see the difference immediately in her level of activity,” reports her daughter Ilene Glick Blatman. “Before, she was tired all the time. Now she takes walks daily, has increased her pace, and even does her own food shopping.”

St. Mary is one of the first hospitals in the tri-state area to offer TAVR, which received FDA approval in November 2011. The procedure treats severe aortic stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the valve that controls blood flow from the heart. When the valve does not open and close properly, the body does not get enough oxygenated blood, and the heart has to work harder to make up for it. Untreated valve problems can weaken the heart and lead to heart failure, an abnormal heartbeat, and permanent damage to the heart.<.p>

Using the TAVR technique, surgeons are able to insert a thin tube called a catheter into an artery at the top of the patient’s leg. The catheter is then threaded into the heart and used to implant a balloon-expandable aortic heart valve to replace the damaged valve.

TAVR provides an alternative treatment option for older patients whose bodies may not be able to endure open-heart valve-replacement surgery.

“Previously, there were few options for patients with severe aortic stenosis who could not tolerate surgery,” says Dr. George Heyrich, an Interventional Cardiologist and Medical Team Lead for TAVR at St. Mary. “The implantation of a medical device through a catheter delivery system is a significant breakthrough that offers great potential in advancing treatments and improving quality of life for critically ill patients.”

TAVR is performed by a specially trained multidisciplinary team that includes cardiothoracic surgeons and interventional cardiologists in sophisticated operating rooms equipped with the advanced instrumentation and high-end imaging needed to perform such complex procedures. The procedure typically takes 60 to 90 minutes, instead of the four to six hours usually needed for open-heart surgery. Patient recovery time also is substantially shorter – one to two weeks instead of six to eight weeks.

“Over the years, we have seen many advances in treating heart disease, yet I still find it amazing that our skilled cardiologists can replace a damaged heart valve without the need for open-heart surgery,” says Patricia Richmond, Director of Heart and Vascular Services at St. Mary. “For patients who are not candidates for surgery, this can be a life-saving procedure. Our Heart and Vascular Center has distinguished itself as a regional leader in providing leading-edge treatment for heart disease.”

An estimated five percent of those age 75 and older have aortic stenosis. Symptoms may include chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations, heart murmur or feelings of faintness. Patients suffering with severe aortic stenosis often develop debilitating symptoms that can restrict normal daily activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. Valve repair or replacement is typically the only long-term treatment option to prevent or delay the progression of the disease.

St. Mary Medical Center is nationally recognized for consistently delivering evidence-based, quality care for comprehensive heart and vascular treatment. St. Mary is designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care by Independence Blue Cross and has received the Aetna Institute of Quality® Cardiac Care Facility and numerous Get With The Guidelines® – Quality Achievement Awards from the American Heart Association.

For information about patient eligibility requirements for TAVR, please contact the St. Mary TAVR Coordinator at 215.710.6026.