TAVR gives heart patients new lease on life

3:18 PM, Jun 5, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- It's a breakthrough for heart patients. In fact, Dr. Mehmet Oz says for cardiologists, it's the equivalent of putting a man on the moon.

Doctors right here in Tampa Bay are some of the first in the nation to use a new FDA-approved procedure that is giving patients who weren't able to undergo open heart surgery a new lease on life. It's giving people like a Temple Terrace grandmother an opportunity for more holidays and birthdays and the health to do what they love.

Doctors say 91-year-old Margaret Siebert wouldn't have lived to next Mother's Day but now she may be able to golf and shop for years to come thanks to a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR).

Pepin's Chief of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Dr. Marc Bloom showed Margaret how doctors were able to save her life two weeks after she had TAVR. Ten years ago, she had a heart bypass, but she hadn't been feeling her typical self lately and wasn't able to walk four miles like she used to. That's why she underwent the procedure at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute.

"Now you have a new valve and you're ready to go play golf," Dr. Bloom told her.

TAVR is approved for inoperable patients -- mostly the elderly, those who are too frail for surgery or those with lung disease -- who are battling heart failure.

"A lot of people look at heart surgery the same as being hit by a truck. A surgeon can fix what's wrong structurally in the heart, but the recovery is significant. The younger and the healthier you are, the shorter  and the easier that is. But elderly folks have a hard time with it. Previously to TAVR, there were no options for these patients," Pepin Medical Director Dr. Charles Lambert said.

Doctors call the procedure a breakthrough.

"The TAVR treatment itself, other than surgical valve replacement which started in the '60s, is really the only thing that's ever affected the outcome of these patients and it's a huge, huge effect. [It's comparable to] what penicillin did years and years ago for infectious disease," Dr. Lambert said.

The TAVR procedure lasts only about an hour and the groundbreaking concept is fairly simple.

"A lot of folks realized stints could be used to open blocked arteries in hearts. But what if you could be a valve inside of a stint or you could put the stint inside of a broken human valve and then expand the stint and leave a new valve in place of it?" Dr. Oz said.

Click here for more from Dr. Oz. 

Margaret said, "The day after I came out of surgery, I was bright as a dollar. I didn't feel like I should be there."

Margaret's husband also had heart problems before he passed away. Had TAVR been available, it could have given him more time.

"The last two years of his life wasn't very, very good and that bothered me. I was his caretaker. It was heartbreaking to lose him, but he was better off, " Margaret said.

Now Margaret is looking forward to getting back on the golf course and her active lifestyle.

"I was really lucky that I did decide to do it. I would encourage anybody to do the same thing," Margaret said. "I don't feel 91 and hopefully I'll continue to feel that way."

Doctor Lambert points out that TAVR will not change someone's who sedentary into a marathon runner. All patients should undergo a cardiac rehabilitation and after the surgery they'll be able to return to doing activities that they would have normally done in their lifespan. 

Doctors at Florida Hospital and Morton Plant Mease are two centers of about 50 in the country performing the procedure which a couple of dozen patients have undergone since it was first offered a couple of months ago.

"The key part of the process is the Valve Clinic, in which a multi-disciplinary team of surgeons, medical cardiologists and other clinicians work together to develop the best treatment options for patients suffering from severe aortic stenosis. We also built a hybrid operating suite for this and other procedures," Morton Plant Mease Spokesperson Denise Moore said.  

We've posted links below with videos and more information about the procedure and how you can find out if it's right for someone in your life:

Libby Hendren, 10 News

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