New Valve Replacement Procedure Being Used at Wheeling Hospital

The Wheeling Hospital Heart and Vascular Center is the first medical facility in the Upper Ohio Valley region to perform a new, less-invasive procedure to replace aortic valves.

Hospital officials announced Tuesday that its initial transcatheter aortic valve replacement was performed last week. Dr. Triston Smith, an interventional cardiologist, said the TAVR procedure doesn’t require open-heart surgery and is safer for elderly patients.

After the minimally-invasive surgery, a patient remains hospitalized for two to three days and doesn’t require extensive rehabilitation, Smith said. The need for medication also is reduced.

The TAVR procedure is used to correct a blood flow problem in patients with aortic stenosis or whose aortic valve is diseased from calcium buildup which causes the valve to narrow. He said 7 percent of patients over age 65 in the United States have aortic stenosis and 12.4 percent of people over 75 have the condition.

Smith, who serves as clinical director for the structural heart team, said the new method provides “a paradigm shift in the way we treat aortic stenosis.” He said the TAVR procedure can be used safely for patients deemed to be at high or moderate risk and is very useful for low-risk patients.

Dr. Angelo Georges, chief medical officer, said the state-of-the-art procedure was implemented in only six months. He said, “Things happen here very quickly.”

Ron Violi, the hospital’s CEO, said, “What you’re seeing here today is what we do at Wheeling Hospital. We find the problems community-wide and we solve them.”

Noting that patients don’t have to leave the area to have TAVR performed now, Violi said, “We have the people capable of doing this. They are some of the very best in the country.”

With TAVR, a new valve is compressed and placed on the end of a tube-like balloon catheter. It is inserted through the femoral artery in the leg and pushed through the blood vessels until it reaches the diseased aortic valve. The valve is expanded by the balloon and it anchors to the diseased valve.

The balloon is then deflated and removed. The new valve opens and closes properly, allowing blood to flow in the correct direction.

“We are the region’s leader in providing area residents with the newest technological advancements. With TAVR, we have made the valve replacement process far less burdensome for our patients and easier for our medical personnel,” Violi said. “Several departments work very closely together to provide this service and we are proud of their accomplishments.”

A partnership between an interventional cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon establishes the core of the TAVR heart team. The team includes imaging specialists, anesthesiologists, operating room or cardiac cath lab staff and other key members.


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