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Medical Advances

Repairing a Broken Heart

TAVR: An Alternative Procedure

Aortic valve disease threatened to undo all the effort Beverly Gorham put into getting healthy. The 79-year-old Genoa, Ill. resident has been working hard to keep off the 100 pounds she lost in her early 70s. However, slowly over time she noticed she couldn’t complete her goal of 10,000 steps. Then, she couldn’t even make it down the block without getting winded, light-headed and extremely tired.

Gorham’s aortic valve had thickened; her heart had to work much harder, and her body was getting less oxygen. Due to Gorham’s age, traditional open heart surgery to replace the faulty valve could have been risky. So, she elected to undergo a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

“With TAVR, the aortic valve is replaced using a catheter-based technique, avoiding a major open heart surgery,” said Imran Ahmad, MD, medical director of interventional cardiology at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. Ahmad performed the procedure with Gyu Gang, MD, surgical director of the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Central DuPage and Delnor Hospitals.

A Cooperative Effort

TAVR is performed in a cardiac catheterization lab where interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons thread the new TAVR valve to the heart via a catheter, or tube, inserted in the patient’s groin. The TAVR valve is securely placed within the diseased valve. Once the TAVR valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve cusps out of the way, and the replacement TAVR valve takes over the job of the aortic valve, regulating blood flow.

The TAVR team at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital is composed of an interventional cardiologist, a cardiac surgeon, a cardiac imaging specialist, a valve clinic coordinator, a structural heart nurse and a structural heart nurse practitioner. This cohesive team meets on a weekly basis to review new patient cases to determine the best plan of care for these patients and to provide updates on other TAVR patients.

"We are working together as one team and not in separate silos. We are integrated and we are truly using a collaborative team approach," said Dr. Gang. "We don't consider these 'their' patients or 'my' patients; these are 'our' patients that we find the best solution for together."

Changing and Improving Lives

Following the expansion of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute to the western suburbs in late 2016, the TAVR team has completed more than 70 TAVR procedures at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

“The turn-around in the quality of life is outstanding,” said Dr. Ahmad. “People that weren’t able to get out of their homes are now enjoying everyday activities.”

“I am pleased to see the CDH team achieving such great results with a complex procedure offered close to home for many Northwestern Medicine patients,” adds Patrick McCarthy, MD, executive director, Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute and chief, division of cardiac surgery with Northwestern Medical Group.

Now, Gorham is planning a trip with her husband to make up for a 60th Anniversary vacation that had to be cancelled due to her aortic valve disease.

“Now, my husband has trouble keeping up with me,” jokes Gorham.