Apr 19, 2013 8:00 AM

Author: University of Utah Health Sciences Office of Public Affairs


While open-chest surgery to replace the aortic valve is the gold standard for severe symptomatic aortic stenosis, there are some patients who, because of age or past medical history, are not eligible for surgery or considered high risk for open chest procedures.

These patients are limited in their options to ease the symptoms of aortic stenosis, but they may be candidates for a unique therapy known as TAVI, short for transcatheter aortic valve implant.

“It’s for patients that are extremely high risk or considered inoperable, meaning that they feel that they have no options left.” Amit Patel MD, MS, co-director of the TAVI program at the University of Utah said. “We provide options for them. There are very few places that can provide this sort of care. The team is so dedicated not on just doing procedures but providing the safest and most efficient care for these patients.”

The TAVI program through the University of Utah’s Heart Valve Clinic takes a unique team approach to replacing diseased aortic heart valves without open-chest surgery. TAVI is a catheter-based solution that replaces calcified aortic valves with a balloon-expandable valve that helps relieve the debilitating fatigue associated with aortic stenosis.

From pre-screening to discharge, a team of cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists, echocardiographers, and cardiac anesthesiologists ensure a shortened recovery and reduced complication rates for all TAVI candidates.

“They’ve all had great improvement in their quality of life,” said the program’s other director, cardiologist Anwar Tandar MD “Now they can do what they want to do. Our patients are doing well right now and in follow up, that’s very encouraging.”

Patient Profiles

Phillip Palmer

In August, 73-year-old Philip Palmer became the University of Utah’s first recipient of a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI).

The father of eight, grandfather of 27, and great-grandfather of one says the procedure gives him “more energy and desire to walk,” which comes in handy when the former city engineer is out feeding his 25 head of cattle twice a day or getting wood for the stove used to heat the house.

“I had basically been on oxygen 24 hours per day, but I no longer need it,” Palmer said. “I think my quality of life is pretty darn good.”

Clayton Symes

In September 2012, 84-year-old Clayton Symes, who had gone through four bypass surgeries, began experiencing intense symptoms.

“He got to where he was dizzy and unstable. He was seeing black spots in front of his eyes and was constantly tired,” his wife Helen said. “He said he couldn’t keep going like this.”

The retired Utah Department of Transportation snowplow operator who enjoys working in his yard and around the house with his wife, learned about the transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) procedure being offered at University of Utah Hospital and decided it was worth a shot.

“He was just so glad to have it done,” Helen said. “He feels so much better now.”

Donna Stevens

Chronic fatigue and shortness of breath was keeping Donna Stevens from the things she loved to do.

“Sometimes I just felt too bad to go to church even though I wanted to,” she said. “I was just too tired to get dressed and get myself going.”

Having experienced several prior heart procedures, the Moab, Utah resident’s cardiologist recommended the non-invasive transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) procedure. During a recent checkup, doctors told Stevens the blood flow through the aorta was excellent which makes walking, cleaning the house, and cooking dinner with her husband, Brian, much easier. It also helps getting to church a bit more manageable.

“I suggest the surgery for anybody that’s having trouble with this,” she said. “Don’t be afraid. Just go get it done.”

Rex Wilson

During the summer of 2012, 86-year-old Rex Wilson experienced shortness of breath and chronic fatigue

“I was out of breath all the time, I didn’t feel good and was always tired,” the former World War II rifleman said. “It really bothered me being tired all the time.”

Wilson was referred to University of Utah Healthcare and cardiologist Anwar Tandar, M.D., who determined Wilson was a prime candidate for the transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) procedure. Wilson’s TAVI procedure was successful, and he was pleasantly surprised at how short his hospital stay was.

“The next day they sent me home,” he said. “Recovery is going well. I feel good and I have quite a bit more energy.”

heart health heart valve cardiothoracic surgery

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