After undergoing a heart procedure at Via Christi last month, Jene Hanes no longer feels as if she’s at death’s door.
“It really changed my life,” said Hanes, 79, who lives in Garden City and was recently able to visit her native Texas after the procedure.
Hanes was the first of six patients at Via Christi to undergo a new procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), which helps patients whose heart valves don’t open all the way.
The procedure is for high-risk patients who are less likely to survive open heart surgery. To replace the valve, a physician inserts a folded valve into an artery – typically in the groin – and moves it to the heart, where it can be expanded in place.
“This is the beauty the TAVR has. It gives this population hope where they had none before,” said Bassem Chehab, structural cardiologist with Cardiovascular Consultants of Kansas and medical director of Via Christi’s structural heart program.
“Really you have to put this in perspective about (Hanes’) other alternatives. Either do nothing and die from a disease in the next six months, or she would go with a standard surgical procedure where they do open heart surgery, and I can guarantee you she would not have left after four days since these people usually stay a lot of time on the vent(ilator), they stay in the ICU and take a lot of extra care from rehab and go to a skilled nursing facility. If they survive.”
Now that Via Christi has successfully completed six TAVR procedures with no complications, Chehab said it is ready to expand the structural heart program with additional procedures. In order to start the program, the first six cases had to be proctored.
The procedures often involve at least 15 physicians, specialists, nurses and support staff for what Chehab calls a team approach. Those who perform the procedures are a combination of independent practitioners and Via Christi-employed physicians.
“You need these numbers for the care and the safety of the patient, and it gives you this luxury of having multiple specialities in one room all working as one team,” he said.
The program will soon start performing additional minimally invasive procedures for conditions that would typically require open heart surgery, Chehab said.
One procedure will include going through an artery in the groin to plug holes in the heart with an umbrella-like device that will keep them from leaking.
On Dec. 9, the physicians will perform the Lariat procedure, where they “lasso” a small, otherwise useless section of the heart that can cause clots that lead to stroke. The section, called the left atrial appendage, is an unnecessary structure, like the appendix, Chehab says.
In January, they plan to perform a mitroclip, where doctors repair a heart valve that causes regurgitation by putting a clip on the valve so it doesn’t stay open and bleed.
They also plan to start alcohol septal ablation, where the physicians go through a small vessel and inject alcohol into thickened parts of the heart. The procedure treats a condition that has been known to cause sudden cardiac death in athletes, Chehab said.
“We basically kill that part of the muscle, but it’s a very targeted and localized strike. And once that muscle is not getting any more blood, it shrinks down and the enlarged section of the heart goes back to normal size,” Chehab said.
Wesley Medical Center also recently announced its plans for a structural heart program that will eventually include several of the same procedures.