The heart is a complex structure of valves and chambers that must work together smoothly to keep the body healthy. Many conditions can occur that disrupt that flow—some are present since birth (congenital) and others develop over time. The good news is that advancements in medicine during the last several decades have allowed experts to perfect treatments that restore the heart to its best function. The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA) is celebrating five years of providing this type of care through its Structural Heart Program. The program has seen countless lives changed and good health restored with this high-level care—care that is always evolving and innovating to provide treatment to even the most vulnerable patients.
"One of the most common conditions we treat is aortic stenosis," TMCA interventional cardiologist and Structural Heart Program Medical Director, Dr. Jonathan Sherman, explained, "This condition occurs when the aortic valve is narrowed and flow of blood from the heart to the rest of the body is disrupted. As a result, the heart is working harder to pump blood to the body, which leads to an overworked and weakened heart."
While an approximate 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from aortic stenosis, an estimated 250,000 have symptomatic aortic stenosis, which can be debilitating. A simple walk up the stairs leaves these patients exhausted. However, when accurately diagnosed, patients with aortic stenosis can get a new lease on life with a surgical valve replacement.
"Until recently, our only option for valve replacement was open heart surgery, which meant some of our sicker patients were disqualified from the procedure due to the risks associated with this type of surgery," explained Steven Crowley, MD, interventional cardiologist at TMCA. "Now, we have a minimally invasive option for our patients called transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR. TAVR is now widely available for all symptomatic patients with aortic stenosis."
TAVR is performed by accessing the heart through a blood vessel in the leg or a small incision in the chest. The surgeon guides a tiny tube (catheter) into the affected area of the heart and inserts a new valve inside the damaged aortic valve. The new valve is expanded, pressing against the flaps of the damaged valve, allowing blood to flow as it should.
"Because this procedure is done through a tiny incision, it has much less impact on the body than a traditional open surgery," Dr. Sherman said. "Not only has TAVR allowed us to operate on patients who cannot tolerate open surgery, but it also is reducing blood loss, lowering complications rates and getting patients back on their feet, faster."
The TAVR program at The Medical Center of Aurora was the second in the nation and the first in Colorado to be certified by the American College of Cardiology.
"We have worked very hard to build this program for excellence, including a case conference where all patients' treatment options and care is discussed by cardiologists, surgeons and nursing experts" Dr. Crowley said. Dr. Sherman, Dr. Crowley and the entire team are committed to getting our patients back to good health and restoring quality of life!