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Baptist Health Lexington performs its 200th TAVR procedure; improves quality of life for many

Baptist Health Lexington on Monday performed its 200th transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive procedure that has vastly improved the quality of life of thousands suffering from severe aortic valve stenosis, including Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger.

Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve caused by calcium deposits, which impedes blood flow. Patients suffering from severe aortic stenosis have symptoms such as difficulty breathing, fainting, heart failure and chest pain.

Before TAVR, the standard method to replace diseased valves was through surgery that involved a chest incision and required cardiopulmonary bypass. Unfortunately, patients who were too old or those who had other serious medical issues were deemed unable to withstand the surgery.

TAVR revolutionized aortic valve replacement because it is minimally invasive, has few complications, and patients recover quickly. During the 30-minutes-or-less TAVR procedure, a cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon work together by making a small puncture in the groin to access the femoral artery and insert a long tube called a catheter that contains the new aortic valve. The physicians use an imaging process to guide the catheter into just the right position and implant the new valve within the damaged one.

“We’ve seen some amazing results on patients in their 90s or those who have very complex medical issues – people we would have never dreamed of operating on,” said Dr. Anthony Rogers, cardiothoracic surgeon. “It’s very satisfying to be able to offer people this technology that can essentially fix their heart valve problem with little, if any, complications and add years to their life.”

The federal Food & Drug Administration (FDA) first approved TAVR only for patients deemed inoperable – ones who more than likely would not survive traditional, open-heart valve replacement surgery. Results have been so favorable that the FDA has now approved it for moderate-risk patients, and by the end of 2019 Rogers and other physicians believe the FDA will give the go-ahead for low-risk patients who aren’t as elderly and don’t have accompanying serious medical issues. Low-risk patients are already receiving TAVR in Europe.

“The impact that this (procedure) has had on these people’s lives is amazing,” said Dr. Paula Hollingsworth, interventional cardiologist. “Some of our patients have been on oxygen or would get so winded with just the slightest exertion that they were already limited to moving only from the bed to a chair. With TAVR, they’re telling us how much easier it is to breathe within just a few minutes of having the procedure, and they’re leaving the hospital walking and able to do, for the most part, everything they want to do.”

Patients who undergo TAVR have an average hospital stay of two to four days and are discharged with very few restrictions.

As more physicians are educated about TAVR’s benefits, the hope is they will refer patients before their stenosis symptoms become severe. Both Dr. Rogers and Dr. Hollingsworth advise people not to dismiss symptoms, such as getting short of breath doing simple tasks, as just part of getting old. “Get evaluated by a surgeon or a cardiologist because, very often, there’s an underlying cause of the problem other than age itself,” said Hollingsworth.

TAVR procedures are a coordinated effort utilizing both Cardiac Catheterization Lab and Surgical Services staff. The TAVR team of providers at Baptist Health Lexington includes Dr. Rogers and Dr. Hollingsworth as well as interventional cardiologist Dr. Azhar Aslam, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. John Chaney, anesthesiologists Dr. Valerie Gouzd, Dr. Aaron Hensley, Dr. Steven Solvik and Dr. Thomas J. Young; and nurse practitioner and TAVR program coordinator Caroline Kern.

To learn more about TAVR at Baptist Health Lexington, please call Caroline Kern at 859-260-2225.

From Baptist Health Lexington

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