TAVR - complex heart-value procedure – saves patient

Article Date: Feb 18, 2013

"I think the good Lord took good care of me."

Bob Smejkal managed to avoid a major health scare for 87 years.  When he started having trouble completing his "honey-do" list …

"I'm out there pulling that thing and it just hurt like heck. I thought, 'Well, I strained myself, so I put the rake away.  Spring came, I get out and I'm cutting grass, but I got tired, so I just quit."

He figured he was just slowing down a little … a check-up revealed Bob had a problem with his heart.

"It was blockage – the valve in the heart wasn't getting any blood," he said.

A procedure recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would be Bob's only option.

"Dr. Satpathy came in and explained everything just so perfect that I had so much confidence in her that I had no fear at all," he said. "I just went through with it."

What he went through was a procedure called TAVR, or Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement.  Dr. Ruby Satpathy, interventional cardiologist with Alegent Creighton Clinic, led the team.

Dr. Satpathy said: "Instead of cutting open the chest and replacing the valve, we actually go through the groin with a catheter and put a new valve in."

It's a complex procedure performed by only a select number of hospitals in the country. The Alegent Creighton Health Heart & Vascular Institute is one of them – and the only one in Omaha.  For patients like Bob, there's no other choice.

"There are about 5 million adults with valve problems in the United States," said Dr. Satpathy. "Believe it or not, 33 percent – or 1 in 3 – do not qualify for surgery because they are high-risk surgical candidates. Either they are too old or have had surgery before – open-heart either for valve or bypass surgery or bad kidneys or lungs."

With TAVR, the old valve is stretched open to make room for a ring made from the heart of a pig.

"Then you take this new valve, get it inside the other valve and the new valve takes over," she said.

Surgery takes a couple of hours. Patients are up and moving shortly after, and home within 3 to 4 days.

Bob says the surgery was a piece of cake.

"I had no pain apart from a little soreness where they cut me in my groin," he said.

Bob is slowly getting his strength back and that's good news for a man who, at 87, still has a lot of living to do.

"They say 'Bob, you're looking good,'" he said.

This article originally appeared in the Alegent Creighton Health enewsletter. To subscribe, click here.

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Related Links

Dr. Ruby Satpathy

Alegent Creighton Cardiology

Heart & Vascular Institute