Wenwu Zhang, MD, interventional cardiologist with Willis-Knighton Cardiology, has performed Willis-Knighton Heart & Vascular Institute’s 500th transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure (TAVR). The procedure was performed on Wednesday, June 3, in the Heart & Vascular Institute’s hybrid suite.
TAVR, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012, is a minimally invasive procedure for patients with severe aortic stenosis. Once an option only for those at high risk for open heart surgery, TAVR can now be considered for medium- and low-risk patients who are experiencing symptoms of severe aortic stenosis.
TAVR is performed under anesthesia while the heart remains pumping, eliminating the need for a heart-lung machine. An artificial heart valve is inserted using a small, flexible tube (catheter) through an incision in the groin. It replaces the patient’s diseased aortic valve.
Aortic stenosis is a narrowing or hardening of the aortic valve caused by calcium build-up on the heart valve flaps, restricting the amount of blood flowing from the left ventricle to the aorta. It is one of the most common and most serious valve problems affecting five million people in the United States.
Many people don’t experience noticeable symptoms until the amount of restricted blood flow becomes greatly reduced. Symptoms include chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, swollen ankles or feet, difficulty sleeping and difficulty walking short distances.
“We were one of the early hospitals in the United States to establish a transcatheter heart valve program through strong collaboration of interventional cardiology and cardiovascular surgery in the Willis-Knighton system,” Dr. Zhang says. “This milestone – the 500th TAVR procedure – is more than a number. It represents the hope and a less invasive treatment option given to countless patients suffering from severe aortic stenosis for an improved quality of life.”