TAVR: New procedure for replacing aortic valves

March 21, 2013 5:13:23 AM PDT
A new procedure is helping people with a common heart problem.

75-year-old Oran DeLoach has spent his life playing and directing music.

"I won't say I can't live without music but it has a real enlightenment to me," DeLoach said.

Also an enlightenment are his 6 grandchildren.

But all this was recently put in jeopardy.

Oran started having trouble catching his breath just walking up steps. His aortic heart valve had become stiff and wasn't working properly - a common problem among seniors. Without treatment, it can lead to early death.

It's typically fixed with open heart surgery. That's the procedure ABC's Barbara Walters had in 2010. But for Oran that surgery was too risky. So, doctors decided on a new procedure called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement or TAVR.

Dr. Frank Bowen at Cooper University Hospital says they can now replace aortic valves without opening the chest. They thread a catheter through an artery in the groin or by making a small incision between the ribs.

This new valve is then moved into placed.

"The valve goes inside the heart, pushes the old valve out of the way, and takes over and allows the heart to beat normally," Dr. Bowen said.

He says the main benefit of the procedure is it opens the door to treat more patients. More long term studies are still needed, but Dr. Bowen expects more patients to have this less invasive procedure in the future.

Oran calls it a lifesaver. It has allowed him more quality time with his family and his music. And if you compare the two procedures: open heart has a much longer recovery time, but is still the gold standard, whereas this new procedure is only for patients who can't have traditional surgery.

As with all surgeries, this new procedure comes with risks. Patients should discuss the risks and benefits with their physician.

For more information on the program at Cooper, visit: http://www.cooperhealth.org/treatments/transcatheter-aortic-valve-replacement-tavr

The TAVR procedure is also offered at Penn Medicine, Saint Mary Medical Center and Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.