A Change of Heart

By Anya Mayr

Since the Gainesville-based hospital implemented the minimally-invasive surgery into the Heart & Vascular Program, the cardiothoracic team at North Florida Regional Medical Center, along with its team of highly-skilled cardiac professionals, has been helping patients have a drastic “change of heart.”

TAVR is a heart valve replacement option for people with severe Aortic Valve Stenosis – a condition that occurs when the heart’s aortic valve narrows, preventing the valve from opening fully and causing an obstruction of blood flow from your heart into your aorta, and thus to the rest of your body. The obstruction then causes your heart to go into overdrive, and work harder to pump blood to your body. Eventually, this takes a toll on your valve, limiting the amount of blood it can pump, and weakening your heart muscle.

While severe Aortic Valve Stenosis can also be cured via open-heart surgery; there are many instances in which patients’ weak conditions will not allow them to qualify for the aggressiveness of this approach.

The TAVR procedure, on the other hand, consists of a manufactured valve, which is delivered via a catheter that is advanced through the femoral artery in the groin, and into the heart. The valve is then crimped onto a balloon that is expanded, pushing the leaflets of the diseased valve aside, thus replacing it and taking over its role. The valve begins to work immediately and should have a durability similar to surgically implanted valves. This innovative technique allows for repairing the valve without having to remove the old, damaged valve, or undergo the gravity of open-heart surgery.

“TAVR is one of the most exciting and revolutionary technologies that I have been involved with in my career thus far,” said Dr. Klodell, cardiothoracic surgeon at the Florida Heart & Lung Institute at North Florida Regional Medical Center. “In medicine, we are fortunate to see evolution over time in almost every treatment paradigm, however, it is only rarely we encounter a revolutionary technology such as TAVR that changes how we approach a disease process and its outcomes.”

According to Dr. Klodell, one of TAVR’s biggest benefits is its rapid recovery time. Since the surgery avoids the severity of opening up the chest and completely removing the diseased valve, the minimally-invasive surgery usually lasts 1-2 hours, and patients are typically discharged within 24 to 48 hours post-procedure. Compared to a lengthy heart surgery and a recovery that spans several months, TAVR demands a much smaller interruption of life activities. Other benefits include a lower risk of stroke, bleeding, death, and avoiding the need for heart-lung machine usage.