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Healing Hearts Altru Celebrates 100 Valve Replacement Procedures

  • Date Submitted: Feb 14, 2021

James Aubuchon’s heart has come a long way in just a year and a half.

A valve in his heart wasn’t opening properly and he needed it replaced.

“I had a heart valve that was fluttering,” the 73-year-old says. After consulting with the team at Altru’s Heart and Vascular Center, he decided to do something about the faulty valve.

“Doctors recommended I had it replaced. So I went for it,” James says.

A Life-Saving Procedure

two doctors with a patient​Dr. Jason Go with Sunny Wilmer, Altru’s 100th TAVR patient and Dr. Mikhail Kirnus

His care team recommended Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). This minimally invasive procedure replaces a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly.

“A stenotic valve does not open fully to allow the heart to move the blood in circulation,” said Dr. Jason Go, a cardiologist at Altru. “Patients can have symptoms of heart failure, angina, or syncope. Sometimes, it can lead to sudden death. TAVR allows us to fix the valve, by implanting a new valve, which in turn leads to the relief of these symptoms.”

As part of the procedure, doctors insert a catheter in your leg or chest, and a replacement valve is inserted through the catheter and guided to your heart. We have more information on the procedure available on the Heart and Vascular website.

Candidates for TAVR

“TAVR may be an option for people who are at intermediate or high risk of complications from surgical aortic valve replacement or open-heart surgery,” said Dr. Mikhail Kirnus, a cardiologist at Altru.

“The decision to treat aortic stenosis with TAVR is made after you consult with a team of heart and heart surgery specialists, who work together to determine the best treatment option.”

Staying Close to Home

Altru Team Members

Altru Team Members who worked on the 100th TAVR procedure

When it came time for him to drive down from his home in Drayton, James thought about the history he was making with his care team. James was the first patient to undergo this procedure at Altru.

“It was great,” James says. “I’ve never had any problems at all. My relationship with the Heart and Vascular Team made me feel comfortable.”

Being so close to home after having a complex heart procedure, is a perk many patients appreciate.

“TAVR helps us treat our patients without the need for referral elsewhere and allows our patients to remain local,” said Dr. Go. “Altru is at the forefront of cutting-edge cardiac care.”

Less than 48 hours later, James was out of the hospital and back home.

“Knowing that my heart is not going to give out, because of the previous valve, let me lead a normal life and not worry about it,” James says.

Changing Times

The Altru Team in operation room​The first TAVR in a human was done on April 16, 2002, in Rouen, France.

The Altru Team who worked on the first TAVR procedure in May of 2019.

“During that time, TAVR was only done as an experimental procedure for surgically inoperable patients,” says Dr. Go. He is one of the providers who first trained in TAVR procedures in 2010.

“Throughout the years, TAVR was approved for less critically ill patients from non-operable to severe risk, to moderate risk, and now to low-risk patients,” says Dr. Go.

TAVR is now approved for any patient that meets the criteria for severe aortic stenosis.

When the first TAVR procedures were done at Altru, patients had to be under general anesthesia. Currently, the procedure is done with patients fully awake and only receiving conscious sedation.

“The amount of sedation is so little that I can talk to patients while they get their valve replaced,” said Dr. Go. “I remember a moment, during a procedure when I asked the nurse for the patient’s weight and the patient answered the question herself.”

Doctor with a patient

Dr. Jason Go, with Sunny Wilmer, Altru’s 100th Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement patient

100 TAVR Procedures

In January 2021, Altru’s 100th patient had their TAVR procedure. The Heart and Vascular Team welcomed James back for a special visit.

Helping 100 hearts heal has been a gift not just for patients but for providers.

“It is a great feeling,” says Dr. Go. “I have long wanted to deliver this care to our patients in the region, ever since I started here.”

Twenty months later, James still recommends the procedure to people he meets. James says Altru’s Heart and Vascular team is world-class.

“If you get recommended to have this procedure to save your life or your heart, go for it,” James says. “It’s very easy to do. I was out of the hospital in less than two days. I didn’t have to restrict my motion or change any part of my life.”

For more information, visit altru.org/heart or call 701.780.6236.