St. Rita’s health focus: Heart valve fix option

By Dr. Sandeep Patel - Guest Columnist

Aortic stenosis, or the narrowing of the heart valve, has traditionally been treated with either medical and palliative care or surgical replacement. Unfortunately, this heart condition usually has a dismal prognosis. About 50 percent of patients die within two years of first recognizing symptoms and nearly 80 percent mortality five years after diagnosis.

Because of the ability of the heart to adapt to the narrowing of the heart valve, symptoms are often masked. Also, because the majority of patients with aortic stenosis are older — usually in their 70s, 80s, and 90s — the slow, gradual decline they experience is often misconstrued as “normal aging.” And with advancements in medical care, the life expectancy of the general population has gone up, thereby increasing the number of patients with aortic stenosis to roughly 700,000 people annually.

But there is good news. Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement represents one of the most advanced technologies in medicine in the last 50 years of cardiovascular science. TAVR is a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat aortic stenosis. Studies show that there is a 20 percent less likelihood of mortality after one year for those patients who have the TAVR procedure done as compared to those who do not. TAVR has given patients who in the past had no treatment options a chance for improved quality and length of life.

TAVR provides a way to replace the narrowed aortic valve without having patients undergo the traditional risks of surgery. Instead, the team uses catheters that are inserted through small incisions in the groin or chest. During the procedure, a replacement valve is inserted on top of the damaged valve. As the new valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve out of place and takes over the function of the old valve.

The TAVR procedure is now performed exclusively at Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center and is covered by insurance companies and Medicare. TAVR is done in a similar manner as a cardiac catheterization is done for placing heart stents and takes about 1-2 hours to perform by a dedicated heart team which includes an interventional cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon. Patient’s stay in the hospital for 1-2 days after the procedure and are typically back on their feet by the next day.

St. Rita’s has a dedicated Structural Heart and Valve Center that routinely evaluates patients with valve disease and helps patients decide on timing, further testing, and method of valve replacement, including TAVR. Our valve team is extremely experienced with these types of procedures, bringing together a multi-specialty service line with training and experience from respectable centers across the country. The St. Rita’s team has collectively performed more than 500 TAVR procedures in their lifetime, and we are excited to bring these services to Lima and the surrounding communities. St. Rita’s surgeons are currently performing TAVR procedures on a regular basis and our goal is to perform the TAVR in qualified patients as soon as possible to avoid continued suffering.

All this expertise, including a comprehensive patient evaluation, is available close to home, right in the Lima community. Patients with a heart valve issue, murmur, or those who have been considering valve surgery/procedures, can call 419-996-2714 to set up a consultation. Same day appointments are often available or can be made within 24-48 hours of a request.

By Dr. Sandeep Patel

Guest Columnist

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