New Hope for Patients With Heart Valve Disease
Date: June 15, 2013
When patients have narrowing or severe blockages of their aortic valve, the condition can seriously jeopardize their health and quality of life. They become short of breath and easily fatigued. They also may experience dizziness or fainting spells and even sudden cardiac death. But if their health is fragile, they may not be candidates for open-heart surgery to correct the problem.
In these cases, interventional cardiologist Jon Resar and cardiac surgeon John Conte have witnessed the benefit to many of their frail and elderly patients of having a minimally invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve. As co-investigators in the national clinical trial to evaluate the CoreValve device, a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), Conte and Resar were one of the first teams to perform the procedure.
With CoreValve, an artificial aortic valve attached to a wire frame is guided by a catheter to the heart. The catheter is inserted through an incision in the groin or the arm or, if these arteries are too small, directly into the aorta through a small incision in the sternum. Once in the proper position in the heart, the wire frame is expanded, allowing the aortic valve to open and begin to pump blood.
“Recovery is quicker with the TAVR approach compared to open surgery,” says Resar. “Patients have almost immediate relief from their symptoms, such as shortness of breath and fatigue, and are walking the next day.”
In 2011, Johns Hopkins launched the Transcatheter Valve Program to meet the distinct needs of heart valve patients and push forward frontiers of what is possible, through research. Every patient who comes to Johns Hopkins with a heart valve condition is evaluated to determine the best treatment. For some, this does mean traditional open surgery. But with the new TAVR that Resar and Conte now offer, many more patients with valve disease can be treated with the less invasive approach.
“We still need to proceed cautiously,” says Conte. “But, in appropriately selected patients, TAVR can be lifesaving. It offers high-risk surgical patients, many of whom are elderly, a new chance to enjoy their golden years.”
To learn more about these potentially lifesaving options or to support the Transcatheter Valve Program, contact the Heart and Vascular Institute Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 443-287-7384.