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How TAVR is helping patients with heart valve problems

“It's a game changer,” said Alexandra DeMartini, RN, Valve Program Coordinator at Saint Francis Hospital.

MEMPHIS, Tenn — February is American Heart Month, and Feb. 22 is Heart Valve Awareness Day, which aims to increase recognition of specific risks and symptoms of heart valve disease and improve detection and treatment.

At Saint Francis Hospital, they are helping patients using TAVR (Trans Aortic Valve Replacement). TAVR is used to repair Aortic Stenosis, which is a hardening of the aortic valve.

Doctors said it happens as people get older and it is common.

“A TAVR is an abbreviation for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement. We have grown the technology to now replace the aortic valve with a bio prosthetic tissue valve,” said John Wise, PA - Cardiovascular Surgeon with Saint Francis Hospital.

“It’s a game changer,” said Alexandra DeMartini, RN, Valve Program Coordinator at Saint Francis Hospital.

The procedure is done with a catheter. It is not an open operation.

“We are able to go through a blood vessel in the groin or neck or elsewhere and replace the heart valve in a minimally invasive way,” said DeMartini.

“Prior to the procedure I was sluggish, didn’t want to really do anything,” said Raymond Anderson, TAVR recipient. “The difference between the before and after the procedure is night and day. I mean, I walked out the next day, and the day after that I was walking two miles.”

“My favorite thing is when people come in and they’re 65-years-old and they say, ‘I am just not 18 anymore.’ Well yes, granted, that’s true. We’re not 18 anymore. But all of these symptoms are attributed to a medical problem that can be fixed, and it’s amazing to see a 65-year-old or a 70-year-old or an 80-year-old, when you fix them. The next day after they’ve been repaired with this transcatheter valve, they don’t feel 18 but their symptoms are 100% gone. And they just feel magically better,” said Wise.

“When patients come for their one month follow up after TAVR, they’re normally reporting significant improvement in shortness of breath, more energy, more stamina, less fatigue, less swelling. A lot of times they’re just able to get back to doing the activities that they enjoy doing, that they weren’t able to do before,” said DeMartini.

“I have the energy to do the things that I want to do right now,” said Anderson.

“I’ve been doing this for 17 years this year and this is actually the coolest thing I’ve seen in cardiac surgery and that length of time. It’s absolutely amazing,” said Wise.

“We can get patients referred and get them to surgery and have their TAVR in less than three weeks,” said DeMartini.

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