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New heart valve surgery successfully performed at Medical Center of the Rockies

For immediate release: May 21, 2012

Fiona Libsack, 970.391.1253,

 The Sapien valve is crimped on to a catheter, then expanded by balloon and implanted, replacing the diseased aortic valve.
Courtesy: Edwards Lifesciences.

 About aortic stenosis

Aortic stenosis occurs when the heart valve becomes stiff or narrowed, forcing the heart to pump harder to get blood through it. The decreased flow of blood increases pressure inside the heart and can cause blood to back up into the lungs. In severe cases, the brain and the body don't receive enough blood.

Some valve problems are harmless, but more serious cases can lead to heart failure, which accounts for approximately 300,000 deaths each year. Timely and appropriate treatment is the key to successful outcomes.

Symptoms: Breathlessness, chest pain, fainting, weakness, dizziness and heart palpitations.

Heart Center of the Rockies just became the second heart program in the Rocky Mountain region to perform a new, minimally-invasive procedure that replaces damaged aortic valves in patients who are too sick for open-heart surgery.

Heart Center of the Rockies, northern Colorado's largest heart program with 23 cardiologists and surgeons practicing at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland and Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, performed three transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedures last week at Medical Center of the Rockies. University of Colorado Hospital in Denver last month became the first in the state to perform the procedure.

Medical Center of the Rockies and University of Colorado Hospital are both part of the new University of Colorado Health, which combines the best of community health with the best of academic medicine.

The Edwards SAPIEN transcatheter heart valve received Food and Drug Administration approval in November 2011. Heart Center of the Rockies was among a short, select list of heart programs chosen to offer the procedure.

"The people who benefit most from TAVR procedure are our more senior and frail patients with heart valve blockage," said Dr. Justin Strote, an interventional cardiologist with Heart Center of the Rockies. "TAVR reduces recovery time and helps save the lives of those within our sickest patient population. It's cutting-edge heart health innovation, and I am proud to be part of the team that was first to bring it to northern Colorado."

During the procedure, the replacement valve is crimped on to a catheter, inserted through a small incision in the upper thigh and then guided by a wire to the heart. The valve is then expanded by a balloon and implanted to replace the diseased aortic valve.

"TAVR provides an effective solution for many patients who require a replacement for their diseased aortic valve, but were previously deemed inoperable," said Dr. Mark Guadagnoli, a cardiovascular surgeon with Heart Center of the Rockies.

While there are some surgical components to the procedure, they are minimal and less invasive than open-heart surgery, said Dr. Mark Douthit, Heart Center of the Rockies cardiovascular surgeon.

Over the past few months, a Heart Center of the Rockies' TAVR team comprised of interventional and non-invasive cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and cardiac clinical support staff have been preparing to offer the procedure to patients in northern Colorado. Preparation included a hands-on, comprehensive training program at trial sites in both the United States and Canada.

"The selection had positive implications for our local patients," said Dr. Brad Oldemeyer, an interventional cardiologist at Heart Center of the Rockies. "We had known about the procedure but were forced to send patients clear across the country to have it done. This was a tremendous inconvenience to our patients and their families."

Individuals interested in learning if they might be a candidate for the TAVR procedure may contact the Heart Center of the Rockies valve clinic at 970.624.1833.


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