Temple Health's TAVR helps patients battling with aortic stenosis

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Northeast Philadelphia man with a family history of heart problems heeded his mother's advice about getting his checked early.

That led him to Temple Health and a cutting-edge procedure that ultimately saved his life.

We learn more in today's Moves in Medicine.

Sixty-one-year-old Alan Ellis sought some heart help at the urging of his mother.

"She recommended I go to a cardiologist because our family had a history of heart problems, Ellis said.

Her father had aortic stenosis and so did she.

"They develop a hardening of the heart valves so that it fails to open normally anymore," Dr. Brian Omurchu, Director Temple's Cardiac Catheterization Lab.

It's something that takes years upon years to develop.

"He said that you have a very microscopic start of aortic stenosis, we'll keep an eye on it," Ellis said.

Temple Health says that's normal in the disease's early stages.

"We don't do anything about the valve until it's severely narrowed and bothering the person," said Dr. Omurchu.

Symptoms at that point can be shortness of breath, chest pain and loss of consciousness.

After five years of monitoring his condition, that moment came last summer for Ellis.

"I got a call maybe the end of July and they said we want to talk to you, you might have to get it replaced," Ellis said.

In September he underwent Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement or TAVR.

Doctors go in through the groin and replace the aortic valve in the left ventricle.

"It's the last door that opens as the blood gets pumped out of the heart into the aorta to travel all around the body," Dr. Omurchu said.

This procedure doesn't require open-heart surgery which greatly benefits the patient.

"The overall stresses, the period of recovery, the pain and suffering that comes with the procedure is a lot less than it is with regular open-heart surgery," Dr. Omurchu said.

Ellis says he felt the effects immediately.

"I felt great. I felt like, wow, I thought I didn't feel like I thought I was gonna feel I felt a lot better" Ellis said.

Temple Health says TAVR is not done on an emergency basis, it takes weeks and months of planning utilizing a whole team of doctors.

But for the patient, if all goes well it's just a one or two-night stay in the hospital.
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