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Published on March 19, 2012

New TAVR Valve Replacement Procedure Offers Hope for Those Who Cannot Have Open-Heart Surgery

The UCH Cardiac & Vascular Center is the first in Colorado to offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement for patients who are too high risk for traditional open-heart surgery

Aurora, Colo.  – The University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Cardiac & Vascular Center is among only a handful of locations in the U.S. offering an innovative procedure to replace narrowed or diseased aortic heart valves non-surgically using a catheter. The first two transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedures (TAVR) performed in Colorado were done at the University of Colorado Hospital on March 13, 2012.

A welcome alternative to traditional surgery

Traditional valve replacement surgery involves opening the patient’s chest and placing their heart on a bypass machine during the valve replacement, but many patients are not healthy or strong enough for this.  Now, those patients have another option.

John Messenger, MD

Dr. John Messenger

Cardiac interventional specialists at the UCH Cardiac & Vascular Center are able to feed a catheter through a patient’s artery in the groin to their heart and replace the aortic valve from the inside, eliminating the need for an invasive open-heart surgery. 

“This procedure is for patients with very advanced aortic valve disease,” says Dr. John Messenger, director of the Catheterization Laboratory.  “We’re able to extend life expectancy and improve quality of life for patients who have no other option.”

How it works

This innovative technology involves a bovine heart valve stitched inside a stainless steel scaffold, or stent. The Edwards SAPIEN transcatheter heart valve is crimped down onto a catheter which is then fed up through a patient’s femoral artery to the heart.  A tiny balloon temporarily inflates inside the stent, setting it in place and replacing the malfunctioning valve.

“This procedure is possible in our hybrid cath lab,” says Dr. Joe Cleveland, a cardiothoracic surgeon participating in the procedure. “We convene a team of cardiac surgeons, cardiac imaging specialists, interventional cardiologists and our cardiac anesthesiologist to orchestrate a very precise procedure in our hybrid procedure room. The University of Colorado Hospital has some of the world’s best physicians working collaboratively to perform this life-saving procedure.”

With TAVR, a shorter recovery time

The operation itself is much easier on patients than traditional surgery and recovery time is greatly diminished, making the transcatheter valve replacement possible for patients who are too sick for traditional surgery.

“Our patients wake up after the procedure and immediately have a much healthier heart, and they’re usually back at home in about a week,” said Dr. John Carroll, director of Interventional Cardiology.

“About 250,000 patients in the U.S. suffer from severe aortic stenosis,” said Dr. Peter Buttrick, chairman of Cardiology.  “We’re proud to be the first in Colorado to offer this, and we believe the TAVR can help a large number of patients across the Rocky Mountain Region.”

Patients who are interested in finding out if they’re a candidate for TAVR can contact the Cardiac & Vascular Center at 720-848-5300. 

An animation of the TAVR procedure is available at the UCH Valve Clinic website.

About University of Colorado Hospital

University of Colorado Hospital is the Rocky Mountain region's leading academic medical center.  It is recognized as the highest-performing academic hospital in the United States for delivering quality health care by the University HealthSystem Consortium, and is ranked as the best hospital in the Denver metro area and one of the best in the country by U.S. News & World Report. UCH is best known as an innovator in patient care and often as one of the first hospitals to bring new medicine to the patients’ bedside. The hospital’s physicians are affiliated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, part of the University of Colorado system. Based on the expansive Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, CO, the hospital is where patient care, research and education converge to establish the future of health care delivery.

Contact: Jacque Montgomery at jacque.montgomery@ucdenver.edu or 303-928-9093 

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