LANGHORNE, Pa., February 14, 2013 – St. Mary Medical Center recently became one of the first hospitals in the tri-state area to offer a new breakthrough in treating heart disease – Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). Considered a minimally invasive procedure, TAVR provides an alternative treatment option for patients who may not be candidates for open-heart valve-replacement surgery. The procedure, which received FDA approval in November 2011, is performed on patients who have aortic stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the valve that controls blood flow to the heart. When the body does not get enough blood, the heart has to work harder to make up for it. If the valve problem is not resolved, it can lead to abnormal heartbeats, heart failure and permanent damage to the heart. Aortic stenosis can be life threatening.
“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.”
Similar to cardiac catheterizations performed to clear blockages in heart vessels, the TAVR procedure utilizes a minimally-invasive approach in which a thin tube called a catheter is inserted near the groin into a large artery at the top of the leg and threaded into the heart.
After the catheter is precisely positioned in the heart, a balloon-expandable aortic heart valve is implanted to replace the damaged valve. The delivery system is designed to allow for controlled placement, minimizing impact to surrounding structures within the heart. Once in place, the new valve will function like a healthy valve with proper blood flow and improved heart function.
The TAVR procedure is performed by specially trained and highly skilled interventional cardiologists in a sophisticated hybrid OR at St. Mary that is equipped with the advance instrumentation and high-end imaging needed to perform complex transcatheter procedures. The procedure typically takes about 60 to 90 minutes, compared to four to six hours for open-heart surgery, and the recovery time for patients is substantially shorter – one-to-two weeks – compared to six to eight weeks for open surgery for valve replacement.
It is estimated that approximately five percent of the population ages 75 and over have aortic stenosis, with most signs developing when the narrowing of the valve is severe. Symptoms can include chest pain or tightness, feeling faint, shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations and heart murmur. Patients suffering with severe aortic stenosis often develop debilitating symptoms that can restrict normal day-to-day activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. Other than a valve repair or replacement, there currently are no long-term treatment options to prevent or delay the progression of the disease.
“Over the years, we have seen many advances in treating heart disease, but 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.”
St. Mary Medical Center has received national recognition for consistently delivering evidence-based, quality care for comprehensive heart and vascular treatment. St. Mary received the Aetna Institute of Quality® Cardiac Care Facility, numerous Get With The Guidelines®– Quality Achievement Awards from the American Heart Association, and is designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Cardiac Care by Independence Blue Cross.
For information about the patient eligibility requirements for TAVR, please contact Elaine Flood, CRNP, TAVR Coordinator at St. Mary at 215.710.6878.