CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Each year more than 30,000 patients will now be able to avoid open heart surgery, thanks to a minimally-invasive procedure being pioneered here in Northeast Ohio.
Transcathater Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, is a non-surgical procedure sparing patients the risks and the long recovery of traditional open heart surgery.
It’s been around in the United States for about 5-10 years, but only performed on patients at a higher risk, with no other choice, because they likely wouldn’t survive open heart surgery. Now, a pair of recent studies has lead to the recent FDA approval for low risk patients.
“We saw that TAVR was better than surgery for a lot of those patients. It’s really a big paradigm shift on how we treat those patients,” said Dr. Marc Pelletier, Chief of Cardiac Surgery with UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute.
Doctors go in through the groin, instead of opening up a patient’s chest. They make their way up toward the heart and insert a new valve. The procedure is done in about an hour, as opposed to 3-4 hours for open heart surgery. The patients are awake, not put on a heart lung machine, or a ventilator, and don’t need to be intubated or spend time in the Intensive Care Unit.
Dr. Pelletier, says the real difference is in the recovery and the way the patients look the day after.
“Usually the evening after, they’re sitting up, eating, walking around. Eighty percent are going home that day,” he said.
Arlene Bryant, is a patient with Aortic Stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve that can lead to heart failure.
“I knew I had a hard time gardening, and as it progressed it was even harder to walk around the block,” she said.
Instead of open heart surgery, she got in on a clinical trial for TAVR. She was walking the next day, and back to work and driving in a week.
“I feel awesome. I feel terrific,” she said.
One of the major selling points with this procedure is driving. With open heart surgery patients can’t get back on the road for at least six weeks. But with TAVR you’re back behind the week within a week.
“I’ve not been involved with anything that has touched this many patients and has made such a difference,” said Dr. Pelletier.
He says there are socioeconomic benefits to eligible patients as well.
“We now have the ability to provide that person with a therapy that alters his or her life, that allows that person to get back to work within a few days, and not to miss a paycheck or be off work for two or three months,” Pelletier says.
University Hospitals recently opened the Center for Advanced Heart and Vascular Care, dedicated to TAVR and other minimally-invasive procedures, where patients can be diagnosed and treated in a single day. And they’re teaching physicians from around the world through in-person seminars and telecommunication.
Bryant has a spring in her step now, and is looking forward to walking every day, getting back to gardening, and dabbling in a little yoga.
She's joined a health club, and is encouraging others to consider a TAVR.
Her doctors call it a game changer. Bryant said it was life-changing.
The TAVR procedure is not for every one, so you’re encouraged to talk to your doctor to see if you’re a candidate. And since this is still relatively new procedure, previously only done on much older patients, not a lot is known about the longevity of it.