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Help for Risky Hearts

Alternative for patients too sick for surgery.

A new treatment may help heart patients not healthy enough for open heart surgery.

Ironing is not exactly Barbara Roy’s favorite activity, but it’s something she’s glad she can do again. “I’d probably iron a couple pieces and then have to come out here and sit down and rest,” Roy said.

Her doctor diagnosed her with severe aortic stenosis. “I didn’t think I was going to make it,” she said.  “I couldn’t breathe.”

Because of her age, 82, and other health problems, she was considered a high risk patient.
“[They] said no way could I ever be operated on,” she said.

Dr. Augusto Villa, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center and Medical Director of the Valve Clinic says 50 percent of patients will die within two years.

“Their prognosis is extremely poor,” Dr. Villa explained. “It’s as poor as lung cancer. In five years, only 4 percent will survive.”

Now there’s a new option for patients who can’t have open heart surgery, known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR. A balloon catheter is placed through either the groin or ribs. Once in position, it inflates, placing the artificial heart valve and restoring blood flow.

“I think it’s an amazing, amazing technology,” Dr. Villa said. Unlike traditional surgery, the heart continues to beat during the TAVR procedure and there’s no need to place a patient on a heart-lung machine. Patients can go home in four to five days and expect to get back to normal activities in one to two weeks.

A month after surgery, Roy is back doing chores, thankful that she can. “I cook. I do dishes. I do laundry,” she said.

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